In a way, Ricky Nolasco's last start was a microcosm of his career.
Facing the Blue Jays last Monday, the Twins right-hander allowed four runs -- including two home runs -- in a 5 2/3-inning no-decision. As Nolasco prepares to battle the Tigers on Sunday in the series finale, he'll enter having allowed 13 home runs this season, which ranks among the most in the Majors.
Since his rookie year in 2006, he has served up at least 17 long bombs in every season except for 2007, which was cut short by injury.
"[Allowing homers] is starting to get a little old as kinda the story of my season," Nolasco said after his last start. "But that's what those guys are going to do, especially in this ballpark. You make a mistake and they make you pay. I'd like to have them back, but I thought I had decent stuff tonight."
Nolasco (4-5, 5.70 ERA), who has turned in just one quality start in his last five outings, will see no shortage of sluggers in Detroit -- Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez already have double-digit home run totals, and Torii Hunter trails close behind that mark. But Twins manager Ron Gardenhire believes that Nolasco and others may be able to draw motivation from strong performances by teammates Phil Hughes and Kyle Gibson, both of whom pitched seven scoreless innings in their last starts.
"You've got veterans out here," Gardenhire said. "You like it when they have a little competition, one-up people. I just think Gibby kind of got in line with a couple of the other guys, like Hughsie and them. You just do your own thing as a starter and hopefully they all get on a roll and we'll be pretty good."
On the other end, the Tigers will trot out righty Rick Porcello, who is 8-4 with a 4.04 ERA this season.
Porcello was roughed up by the White Sox in his last outing. He struggled to the tune of six runs (five earned) while giving up nine hits, fanning four and walking one through five innings.
"It was a struggle from the get-go," said Porcello. "It was in and out for the majority of the night, and just couldn't find any consistency in executing pitches. We face these guys a lot. They know what you're going to do, and when you're not on point, on your game, they're going to get all over it."
Porcello also hit a snag in his last meeting with the Twins. He had only conceded one run through the first five innings, but wound up charged with four earned after an ineffective sixth inning.
Twins: Dozier delivers off bench
Second baseman Brian Dozier, who made an early exit from Wednesday's game in Toronto due to lower-back pain, made the most of his only at-bat on Saturday after being cleared to play by the training staff.
Dozier, hitting .246 with 15 home runs this season, did not start but was brought into the game during the eighth inning as a defensive replacement. He went on to hit a two-run homer in his only plate appearance and saw his first action in the field since Wednesday.
"He hasn't taken a ground ball," Gardenhire said before the game. "He hasn't taken a double play. There's more to it when you're coming off a back [injury].
Tigers: Bullpen struggles continue
After failing to find much consistency through the first two months of the season, the Tigers have continued to suffer from an ineffective corps of relief pitchers.
Highlighting the group is closer Joe Nathan, who labored through 29 pitches and walked a runner home in a 2-0 loss to the Twins on Friday. Nathan has allowed 18 earned runs in 23 2/3 innings this season, leaving many wondering about his future status as the team's closer.
"It's no different now than it was 24 hours ago," manager Brad Ausmus said when asked about his concern over Nathan. "I've said before, we need Joe Nathan to pitch well. This wasn't a save situation, obviously, but we need him to pitch well. We need him to close out games when he's called upon to do that."
Phil Coke, who helped limit the damage in that game, allowed three runs in one inning of work on Saturday and raised his ERA to 6.56. In all, the Tigers' bullpen has a 4.83 ERA this season, which is the worst in baseball.
• Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe left Saturday's game against the Tigers in the fourth inning after hurting himself trying to make a diving stop in the field. The injury is being called a left oblique strain, and his status moving forward is uncertain.
• Twins reliever Casey Fien, who holds a 2.22 ERA through 30 appearances this season, began his Major League career with the Tigers. Fien allowed 13 earned runs over 14 innings across parts of two seasons with Detroit before leaving as a free agent in 2010.
Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.