MINNEAPOLIS — Even on a day when Justin Verlander said he couldn't find a single pitch that was working for him, he still managed to do just enough to secure the first 20-victory season of his career.
It was the kind of outing that exemplified what a special season Verlander is having, and the kind of outing that has the Detroit Tigers thinking they have all the pieces for a deep October run.
Verlander became the majors' first 20-game winner, grinding through six innings in the Detroit Tigers' 6-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Saturday.
Verlander (20-5) gave up four runs on eight hits with six strikeouts and three walks to become the first pitcher to win 20 games before the end of August since Arizona's Curt Schilling in 2002.
"There's been times I've picked these guys up and there's been times they've picked me up," Verlander said. "To get to 20 at this point in the season, obviously you can't do it all on your own. These guys have helped me along the way and today was a good example of that."
Minnesota's abysmal offense made it tougher on Verlander than expected. Luke Hughes had a home run, a double and three RBIs and Jason Repko put one of Verlander's vaunted fastballs into the upper deck in left field for his first homer of the season.
"Name a pitch, I had trouble finding consistency with anything," Verlander said.
But former Twin Delmon Young's RBI single in the seventh gave the Tigers the lead for good and put Verlander in position for the win.
The six innings pitched tied a season low for Verlander.
"Get the win and get the 20 so the 20 is out of the way and he's not searching for it anymore," Young said. "Now he can just go out there and try to win every start he goes out there because he's already got the magic number."
Verlander left after giving up the second single of the day to .170-hitting Drew Butera in the seventh. Jose Valverde picked up his 39th save.
Alex Avila and Miguel Cabrera hit solo homers for the Tigers in the second inning off of Carl Pavano (6-11) and Cabrera added an RBI single in the seventh for a 6-4 lead.
Pavano gave up six runs — five earned — on nine hits with four strikeouts and a walk in 6 2/3 innings.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland has been quoted as saying he doesn't think a pitcher should be eligible to win the MVP award, a stance that raised some eyebrows considering the incredible season by his own ace.
He tried to clarify his position before the game.
"I want everyone in here to know and please print that I support Justin Verlander for MVP to the hilt," Leyland said. "I want to make that perfectly clear. The question was asked to me if I thought a pitcher should be the MVP and my answer to that is no, I do not. But under the way the system is, I will certainly support Verlander to the hilt as a possible candidate for the MVP."