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PHI@MIN: Walters allows just one earned through 7 1/3

Last month was a disaster for the Twins on the mound. Their team ERA in May was 5.03, which was third worst in the Majors. But they seem to have found their groove, as they've improved to a 2.97 ERA in June.

It'll be up to right-hander P.J. Walters to keep the pace when he squares off against Tigers right-hander Doug Fister in the series finale after Minnesota's 6-3 win Saturday. On May 25, Walters took the win in his season debut against Detroit, holding its lineup to two runs in six innings. Fister took the loss, allowing three runs in seven innings.

Walters is 2-1 this year with a 2.49 ERA in four starts and has allowed only one earned run in his past 13 1/3 innings.

"Guys are starting to pick up the pace here and turning in some good performances and going deeper into games," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We've had some guys get into the seventh inning, which is huge because it allows our bullpen to be protected a little bit. Guys are starting to get some confidence."

Fister has been close to untouchable in his last four starts. Despite a 2.67 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings, he doesn't have a win to show for it since the Tigers' offense has only scored four runs in that stretch.

"Man, I feel so bad for him. He's been pitching his butt off," outfielder Torii Hunter said after Fister's last start. "We just can't get a win for him right now. He keeps going out there, he keeps chucking the ball. Eventually, we're going to get something going for him."

Twins: Plouffe returns from the DL
On his 27th birthday, Trevor Plouffe returned to the Twins' lineup Saturday after a stint on the 15-day disabled list. He hit a game-tying two-run homer in the fourth inning and an RBI single in the seventh.

To make room on the active roster, Minnesota optioned catcher Chris Herrmann to Triple-A Rochester. Plouffe finished his rehab assignment 5-for-15 with a home run. He hadn't played with the Twins since May 21, when he suffered a concussion after being kneed in the head by Braves second baseman Dan Uggla while trying to break up a double play. He was placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list as a result and was all set to make his return on May 29, but strained his left calf before the game and was placed on the 15-day DL.

"I knew this was a big series for us," Plouffe said. "It's early in the year for us, but anytime you can play the Tigers, who are at the top of our division, it's big and I'm glad I can help out."

• Center fielder Clete Thomas made his first start of the season in the leadoff spot for the Twins on Saturday. The former Tigers outfielder is filling in for Aaron Hicks, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring. Thomas went 2-for-5 with three strikeouts in his first time batting leadoff since the 2009 season.

""He's been having good at-bats," Gardenhire said. "Right now we're kind of desperate and looking for somebody to give us quality at-bats. He's been swinging the bat good, and so you take your chance."

Tigers: Cabrera leading All-Star voting
Despite winning a a Triple Crown and an American League MVP Award, Miguel Cabrera has never been voted to start an All-Star Game. However, he's on his way, leading all AL All-Star vote-getters with more than three million votes as of Saturday's latest balloting update.

Hunter was passed by the Orioles' Nick Markakis for the third outfielder spot behind Baltimore's Adam Jones and Angels' Mike Trout. After leading through the first two ballot updates, Hunter trails by fewer than 40,000 votes.

Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com and all 30 club sites -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot until Thursday, July 4, at 11:59 p.m. ET.

• Although the Tigers are 17-7 at Minnesota's Target Field since Sept. 2, 2010, manager Jim Leyland found more reasons to like the park.

"I love this ball park, I think they did a terrific job," Leyland said. "I like it a lot. … I like the dugout."

Worth noting
• Prince Fielder has wrecked havoc against Walters throughout his career. He's 5-for-11 with a double, two home runs and three walks.

• Andy Dirks recorded two outfield assists Saturday, improving his total to five, and placing him in the top-10 in the AL.

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