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DET@MIN: Verlander gets his 20th win of the year

MINNEAPOLIS — Justin Verlander is baseball’s first 20-game winner this season.

It won’t go down as one of his best starts, and it did not come easy, but Verlander picked up his eighth straight victory Saturday as the Tigers beat the Twins, 6-4, at Target Field.

"It feels great — what a team win," Verlander said. "I think that emulated all we go through during the season. There’s been times I’ve picked these guys up, there’s been times they’ve picked me up. To get to 20 at this point in the season, obviously you can’t do it all on your own. You’ve got to have a lot of help. These guys have helped me along the way, and today was just another example of that."

Making his 29th start, Verlander was the first pitcher to record 20 wins before the end of August since Curt Schilling did so in 2002 with the D-backs. Verlander is the fifth pitcher to reach the 20-win mark in August over the past 20 years, joining Roger Clemens (1997), John Smoltz (‘96) and Jack McDowell (‘93).

All but Schilling won the Cy Young Award at the end of their respective seasons.

"He’s been picking us up all year, and today we picked him up a little bit," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. "It’s quite an accomplishment. I’m really thrilled for him."

Twenty wins is a career high for Verlander, passing his previous best of 19, which he set in 2009. He is the first Tigers 20-game winner since Bill Gullickson in 1991, and it marks the 44th time in Tigers history that a pitcher has reached 20 wins in a season.

Verlander won his 20th game in the Tigers’ 132nd game of the season, making him the fastest Detroit pitcher to 20 wins since Mickey Lolich got his 20th win in Game No. 131 of the 1972 season.

But while he has been dominant all year, Saturday was a battle for Verlander.

"Name a pitch, any pitch," Verlander said. "I had trouble finding consistency with anything. I’ve got some work to do in between this last start and this next one. I’ve always said, right after the start’s done, I focus on the next one. So I know there’s some things I’ve got to get fixed, and that starts tomorrow. Tonight’s a different story."

Verlander got out of a jam in the first, stranding the bases loaded before cruising through the next three innings.

He then surrendered back-to-back homers to lead off the fifth and allowed two more runs on a Luke Hughes double in the sixth, putting win No. 20 in doubt.

Verlander got the win thanks to a pair of Tigers runs to break the tie in the seventh. He finished with four runs allowed on eight hits over six-plus innings, with three walks against six strikeouts. Verlander tossed 76 of his 120 pitches for strikes.

It was the fourth time this season Verlander allowed four runs or more, and the first since July 26 against the White Sox. Six innings also matched Verlander’s shortest outing of the season.