MINNEAPOLIS — Max Scherzer struck out nine in a rain-shortened outing and Prince Fielder had his first four-hit game with the Tigers, leading Detroit to a 6-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Saturday.
Scherzer (4-3) gave up three runs and six hits in 5 1-3 innings before leaving due to a rain delay and Andy Dirks had two doubles and two RBIs for the Tigers. Miguel Cabrera added two hits and two RBIs and Jose Valverde picked up his eighth save in 10 chances.
Carl Pavano (2-4) allowed six runs on 10 hits in 4 1-3 innings for the Twins, who have lost four straight. Justin Morneau and Denard Span homered for Minnesota, but the Twins struck out 16 times.
Slumping Twins slugger Josh Willingham struck out four times and the bottom four hitters in the lineup — Brian Dozier, Alexi Casilla, Drew Butera and Jamey Carroll — went 1 for 14 with 10 strikeouts.
Most of those strikeouts came courtesy of Scherzer, who is looking more and more like the capable sidekick to Justin Verlander he was last year. He fanned four in a row and five of six at one point in the outing, and set down 13 straight after giving up a solo homer to Morneau in the second inning.
The right-hander gave up seven runs in 2 2-3 innings in his first start of the season and has been trying to dig out of that hole ever since. He was tagged for five runs in a win over the White Sox on May 15, but has chewed up two struggling offenses in his last two starts.
Scherzer struck out 15 in a win over the Pirates last week, the most by a Tigers pitcher since Mickey Lolich in 1972. He fanned nine more on Saturday, getting Dozier and Butera twice each before a couple of hits, and a lot of rain, brought an end to his day in the sixth inning.
The game started 20 minutes behind schedule because of weather, and was delayed another 42 minutes in the sixth inning when a heavy downpour pelted Target Field.
Octavio Dotel took the mound after the delay and wiggled out of a runners-on-the-corners, one-out jam by striking out Willingham and getting Morneau to pop out to third base.
The Tigers jumped on Pavano in the first, getting an RBI double from Cabrera and an RBI single from Fielder to take a quick 2-0 lead. The veteran right-hander, who has been pitching through some soreness in his shoulder, seemed to steady himself in the next three innings, allowing only one hit.
But the powerful Tigers put together six straight hits during their four-run fifth, with Dirks delivering a two-run double and Cabrera an RBI single to make it 6-2.
Span homered in the sixth, and the Twins had the tying runner at the plate with one out in the eighth. But Joaquin Benoit struck out Joe Mauer and Willingham to keep the Tigers comfortably in front.
NOTES: Tigers SS Jhonny Peralta snapped an 0-for-17 skid with a single in the sixth. ... Twins RHP Nick Blackburn (quad) threw a bullpen on Saturday and will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday. ... Twins RHP Scott Baker, on the DL with Tommy John surgery, and his wife welcomed Annalee Baker into the world on Thursday night. ... RHP P.J. Walters (2-1, 2.95), who has helped the Twins' beleaguered rotation immensely since being called up from Triple-A Rochester, will start Game 3 of the series on Sunday against Detroit's Rick Porcello (3-4, 5.29). Porcello has given up 10 earned runs in his last three outings.