The Tigers and Twins will meet on Friday night at Target Field for the first of 11 matchups over the regular season's final five weeks.
Detroit is coming off a series victory over Tampa Bay, but the club is still looking up at the American Central-leading Royals, who have a 1 1/2-game lead. The Tigers know they must take care of business against last-place Minnesota and can't expect a Kansas City collapse.
"I generally know what the score is of the game, but I don't delve into the box score," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "Not at this point. As we get closer to playing [Kansas City], if the game's on TV, I'll watch it on TV. We really need to take care of business here."
To start the four-game series, which will include a Saturday day-night doubleheader, the Tigers turn to Robbie Ray, who will be making just his sixth big league start. The 22-year-old southpaw hasn't won since his debut and has given up seven earned runs in 10 innings during his current stint.
Ray received little help from his defense in his last outing. Three Tigers' errors led to four unearned runs in that game against Seattle.
As the Twins try to embrace the role of spoiler, they'll hand the ball to another lefty in Tommy Milone. He'll be making his third start since being acquired from the A's at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in exchange for Sam Fuld.
Milone will be hoping for different results from his last outing in which nothing seemed to go right -- not even the weather. In a steady rain, he failed to get a solid grip on the ball and allowed six earned runs over a career-low 1 1/3 innings against the Royals.
"The weather was not conducive to pitching in that inning," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It was raining pretty hard. He tried to pitch through it, but it was pretty much a mess. I don't think he had a feel for the ball."
Milone admitted he struggled to grip the ball.
" I was trying not to walk guys, so I just kept leaving it over the plate," he said. "It was pretty tough. It seemed like every time I got a new ball, it was just soaked. But it's just one of those where you try to forget about it."
Tigers: Verlander on target for Saturday
As Ausmus was giving his pregame interview on Thursday morning at Tropicana Field, Tigers starter Justin Verlander strode into his office, high-fived his manager and walked out without a word.
Translation: Verlander's bullpen session went well.
"I would think that the high-five symbolizes 'I'm starting on Saturday,'" Verlander said. "I haven't discussed that with him, though, but I think we all knew if everything went according to plan, I'd be starting Saturday. I don't see any reason why I wouldn't be."
Verlander threw about 35 pitches off the bullpen mound before the finale with Tampa Bay with no apparent setbacks. He felt good enough afterward to confirm his expectation of starting one half of the Tigers' doubleheader against the Twins on Saturday.
"It was pretty much everything I wanted today," Verlander said. "No issues. Everything felt good."
Twins: Pino to start Game 1 of twin bill
Right-hander Yohan Pino will be recalled from Triple-A Rochester to start Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader against the Tigers, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire announced on Thursday.
The move was expected, as Pino will be pitching on regular rest after starting with the Red Wings on Monday, but it wasn't official until Thursday. Pino will be the club's designated 26th man on the roster, as both clubs get to carry an extra player for the twin bill.
"He'll start the first game and [Trevor] May will start the second game," Gardenhire said.
• Tigers left fielder J.D. Martinez celebrated his 27th birthday on Thursday. It wasn't a good day at the plate, as he went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He had played once before on his birthday, going 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs against the Giants on August 21, 2011.
Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.