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Updated: July 18th, 2012 9:56pm
Amid trade speculation, Francisco Liriano impressive yet again in loss

Amid trade speculation, Francisco Liriano impressive yet again in loss

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Francisco Liriano was impressive yet again for the Minnesota Twins, but his effort came with very little run support in a 2-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night.

The skinny

There was a familiar feel to the start of Wednesday night's ballgame.

Liriano was greeted immediately with a two-run bomb into the second deck by Adam Jones that put the Orioles up 2-0 in the first inning -- similar to April 7 in Baltimore when Liriano, making his first start of the season, gave up a solo home run to Jones in the top of the second inning.

On April 7, Liriano derailed quickly, walking the next batter, Matt Wieters, on four pitches before eventually surrendering six runs (five earned) in only four innings.

On Wednesday, the story was different. Liriano, pitching amid heavy trade speculation, settled down to post zeroes in his next five frames, finishing with 10 strikeouts, three walks, four hits allowed and only the those two aforementioned runs in six innings.

"Before, (a home run like Jones') was getting in my head a lot, but not right now," Liriano said. "I'm just focusing. Whatever happens happens. After something is done, there's nothing that I can do about it."

The 10 strikeouts marked the second time this season Liriano has reached double digits in that department. He fanned 15 over eight innings in his last outing against the Oakland A's.

Once again, several scouts were in attendance to watch Liriano's outing as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.

"I try not to listen to it," Liriano said. "If I'm worried about it, if I'm not worried about it, it's not going to change anything. I'm just happy to be here. What happens happens. I don't know what's going to happen. I can say I'm not paying attention to it. ...

"To be honest, I haven't even called my agent to ask him about it. I guess I don't want to think about it too much."

Much like last Friday, Liriano's effort wasn't enough to earn the Twins a win.

Josh Willingham's solo blast deep into the bullpen pulled the Twins to within 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning, but Orioles right-hander Tommy Hunter -- who entered the game with a 6.11 ERA in 16 outings -- managed to hold the Twins offense to only one run on six hits in seven innings, striking out nobody and walking nobody.

The Twins left eight runners on base and finished 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.

Turning point

The Twins' best chance to post a crooked number came in the bottom of the third inning, when Drew Butera and Jamey Carroll started the frame with back-to-back singles. Denard Span flew to left for the first out, but it looked like Ben Revere came through with a big hit when he smashed a sharp grounder right back up the middle.

Hunter, however, stabbed quickly and fielded the ball, then fired to shortstop J.J. Hardy to start an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play.

Had Hunter not fielded the hard-hit grounder, a run likely would have scored, and the Twins would have had two men on with one out for the middle of the order.

"It was an off-speed pitch, and I was waiting for it," Revere said. "I put a good bat on the ball. It just sometimes finds a glove. That's the way baseball goes. ... I wish it would have got by him."

The Twins loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth inning, but lefty Troy Patton got Justin Morneau to bounce out.

Numbers game

10: Consecutive starts in which Liriano has induced at least 12 swings and misses. No pitcher has been more difficult to make contact off of. "I'm not trying to overthrow. (I'm) trying to be consistent and not trying to think about to much," Liriano said. "Just going out there and having fun and trying to play the game. Sometimes, before, I put too much pressure on myself and tried to do too much."

23: Home runs for Willingham.

16: Consecutive games with a hit for Plouffe.

Health report

• Manager Ron Gardenhire went home in the middle of the game due to a stomach virus.

Matt Capps will miss significant time after an MRI revealed rotator cuff irritation. Capps was already set to be sidelined through the July 31 trade deadline.

Carl Pavano (shoulder) is expected to throw off a mound on Sunday for the first time since June 1.

On deck

Thursday: vs. Orioles, 12:10 p.m. RHP Cole De Vries (2-2, 4.37) vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (7-5, 3.80)
Friday: @ Royals, 7:10 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (4-5, 8.10) vs. RHP Luis Mendoza (3-6, 4.32)
Saturday: @ Royals, 6:10 p.m. LHP Scott Diamond (8-3, 2.96) vs. TBD

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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