Welcome to Thursday and the start of a huge series against the Twins. I hope you’re staying cool wherever you are.

Nutritionists urge us never to skip breakfast but yesterday I managed to do that, at least in blog form.

Leading Off: The Tigers blew it big time last night against the A’s — a game that was theirs for the taking. It was painful watching David Purcey transform into Daniel Schlereth as he walked the bases loaded. Purcey’s implosion overshadowed a decent major-league debut by Duane Below and more timely hitting by Victor Martinez … So. Wilson Betemit. I just listened to Baseball Today and while Eric Karabell isn’t so sure, Keith Law thinks the trade helps the Tigers. Is that a revelation? Nope. Anyone — well, almost anyone (apologies, Don Kelly) — is an upgrade over Brandon Inge. Even if Betemit isn’t Inge’s equal in the field, his presence in the lineup gives the Tigers nine major-league-caliber hitters. It’s been a while since we could say that.

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The Tigers (51-46) are tied for first place with the Indians, 4.5 games up on the White Sox and 5 over the Tiwns.

Tonight’s Game: Justin Verlander (12-5, 2.29 ERA) vs. Carl Pavano (6-6, 4.08 ERA) | 8:10 p.m. FSD/1270 & 97.1

Verlander’s lifetime record against the Twins is 7-7, 3.71 ERA, in 18 starts. This year he’s 2-1, 1.73 ERA in four starts.

Happy 56th Birthday to Mark Lemongello.

On this date in 1945 the Tigers and Athletics battled to a 1-1 tie in 24 innings. Les Mueller tosses 19-2/3 innings for Detroit. No pitcher has matched this endurance feat, and especially not Brad Penny. And who said nothing good happened in 2008? On this date that year the Tigers crushed the Royals, 19-4. It is their third time scoring 19 or more runs this season, the first time a MLB team had done that since the 1950 Red Sox. Miguel Cabrera drives in six and Matt Joyce five.

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All About Alex: Alex Avila has been getting lots of digital ink today on ESPN.com. First this piece and then another feature, this one by Jerry Crasnick.

When he wasn’t shagging balls in the outfield before Florida Marlins games, he was sitting in the draft day war room listening to scouts opine about players’ tools and “signability” over takeout deli sandwiches. He also tagged along on road trips to Edmonton, Alberta; Charlotte, N.C.; Portland, Maine; and other minor league venues while his father was checking out prospects on the farm.

For a kid who was part baseball rat, part student of the game, it was the perfect educational experience.

“Baseball was a lifestyle for us,” Avila said. “I think back to all the family vacations we took that were centered around a baseball game. And if my dad had a day off from work, what would we do? We’d go hit in a cage. Baseball was always the center of our life. That instilled a passion in me and a love for the game.”

It’s nice to see Tigers players not named Cabrera and Verlander get some wider acclaim.

Here’s the Real Question: Can the Tigers win in the second half? Danny Knobler delivers this sobering fact:

The Tigers haven’t had a winning second half since 2000, when Phil Garner was the manager, Randy Smith was the general manager and Juan Gonzalez was the cleanup hitter. They’ve had just one winning second half since 1991, when Sparky Anderson was the manager and Cecil Fielder was the cleanup hitter.

Ouch.

Finally, Happy 60th Birthday to Robin Williams.