MLB

Twins-Tigers Preview

With the Detroit Tigers opening with back-to-back shutouts, Shane Greene has an incredibly lofty mark for his team debut.

The right-hander will try to help Detroit become the first club in 52 years to begin a season with three consecutive blankings in Thursday's series finale against the Minnesota Twins.

The Tigers won 4-0 in Monday's opener and followed with an 11-0 rout Wednesday. Anibal Sanchez allowed three of the Twins' four hits in 6 2-3 innings while Ian Kinsler, Anthony Gose and Miguel Cabrera combined to drive in nine runs.

The 18 scoreless innings is Detroit's longest streak to open a season since at least 1912. The Tigers pitched 12 scoreless to begin 1914, 1947 and 2004.

Another shutout would make Detroit the first team to open with three in a row since the 1963 St. Louis Cardinals, who didn't give up a run in their first 32 innings.

The Tigers haven't registered three consecutive shutouts in one season since 1949 but currently have three in a row across two seasons, all against the Twins. Detroit beat Minnesota 3-0 in last year's finale.

That leaves it up to Greene to keep the run going while leading Detroit to its first series sweep of the Twins since May 25-27, 2012. The Tigers haven't swept a home series over their AL Central rivals since Sept. 9-11, 2011.

Greene, acquired from the New York Yankees in a three-team deal, has the difficult task of trying to help make up for the absences of former Tigers starters Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello. Justin Verlander is also on the disabled list.

"We think Greene is a little more advanced, starting-wise, than what Drew Smyly was last season," general manager Dave Dombrowski told MLB's official website.

The Tigers will also have a new closer with Joakim Soria replacing Joe Nathan, who went on the DL with a strained right elbow Wednesday.

''I think it bothered him more at the end of last week, a little bit. And it bothered him a little bit on Monday, the day he pitched,'' Dombrowski said. ''Not major, but it just hasn't cleared up for him.''

Greene went 5-4 with a 3.78 ERA in 14 starts and one relief appearance in his first season. He did not face Minnesota.

The Twins are on the verge of matching a franchise-worst 19-inning scoreless streak from 1940, when they were the Washington Senators. Minnesota hasn't endured three consecutive shutouts in one season since 1978 and will try to avoid its worst start since losing a team record-tying four in a row to begin 2012.

"We believe in these guys, but you come out the first couple days and get 18 zeros and I'm sure it's a bit frustrating," first-year manager Paul Molitor said. "You hope the guys with some experience are smart enough to realize it's just a small sample size of the season."

Kyle Gibson will look to prevent that from happening when he opens his second full season as a starter. The right-hander went 13-12 with a 4.47 ERA in 31 starts in 2014 and was 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA in five matchups with Detroit.

Kinsler has more hits against Gibson than any other player, going 6 for 14 with a home run. Cabrera is 5 for 11 with a homer while Jose Iglesias, 6 for 7 in the first two games, has never faced Gibson.

The Tigers won their first four games last season en route to a fourth consecutive AL Central title.

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