MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins have talked all month about how much they enjoy playing the role of spoiler against contending teams, especially against divisional rivals such as the Tigers.
But as Minnesota found out Saturday afternoon, sometimes it's difficult to put those words into action, especially against an ace like Justin Verlander.
Verlander shut the Twins down over seven-plus strong innings and a late rally fell short during a 6-4 loss in the second-to-last home game of the year at Target Field.
To their credit, the Twins did put a real scare into the Tigers in the late innings after Verlander exited, with the help of a grand slam from Ryan Doumit, but it wasn't enough.
"Today, it was too little, too late," Doumit said. "We certainly believe in what we've got here. Even if it is a Justin Verlander out there, we believe in our offense and we believe we can put up runs against anybody. We get down early, we're confident we can scratch back."
The loss snapped the Twins' three-game winning streak over the first-place Tigers, after they swept last Sunday's doubleheader and won the first game in their weekend series on Friday. With the win, Detroit stretched its lead over the White Sox in the American League Central to two games.
Verlander gave up just one unearned run on four hits and two walks over seven-plus innings. He struck out eight while improving to 17-8 with a 2.64 ERA after his last start of the regular season.
"I felt like after the first [inning], I had a pretty good feel," Verlander said. "I established my breaking ball, was able to throw it for strikes, had a good feel for it. I felt like my slider was pretty good today, but with a lot of lefties, I didn't throw it as much. I knew my changeup was good early on, especially with the way the shadows were right behind me. I knew it was tough on those guys."
After giving up four runs in the top of the eighth, the Twins rallied for four of their own after Verlander exited with nobody out, after Denard Span reached second on an error by shortstop Jhonny Peralta. Doumit gave Minnesota those four on one swing of the bat, crushing a grand slam off reliever Joaquin Benoit with one out.
But the late rally wasn't enough, as Al Alburquerque was able to get out of the inning despite the Twins putting runners at the corners with two outs. Jose Valverde closed it out in the ninth for his 33rd save.
"We battled back and we even had a chance with the tying run at the plate in the last inning," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They kept playing, kept getting after it. Just a little frustrating there in the eighth in a close ballgame when we gave up four."
Verlander outpitched Twins right-hander P.J. Walters, who lasted just five innings because he was on a pitch count and needed 90 pitches to record 15 outs. Walters surrendered two runs on four hits and a walk while notching five strikeouts.
Detroit scored both runs against Walters in the second inning, as Prince Fielder crushed a solo homer before Peralta doubled home Andy Dirks with one out.
"Looking at today, you score four runs [in a game Verlander starts], we need to win that game," said Walters, who finished the year with a 2-5 record and a 5.69 ERA. "We lost by two, that's two runs I gave up."
The Tigers added four necessary insurance runs in the eighth on a pair of homers from Miguel Cabrera and Dirks off reliever Casey Fien.
Triple Crown candidate Cabrera's home run was his 43rd of the year, which tied him with the Rangers' Josh Hamilton for the AL lead and improved his AL-leading batting average to .327. He also leads the league with 136 RBIs.
Joe Mauer, who is competing with Cabrera for the batting title, went 0-for-3 with two walks to see his average dip to .320.
"It's a sign he's just different," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said about Cabrera. "He can hit long, high flies. He can hit line drives. He can hit line drives to the opposite field, fly balls to the opposite field for a home run. He's just different.
"I had a pretty good hitter over there in Pittsburgh that had some pretty good credentials," Leyland said, referring to Barry Bonds, "but this guy's awful good."