Gardenhire will 'review' situation after Liriano struggles in loss
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Desmond Jennings homered and drove in three runs as the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Minnesota Twins 6-2 on Sunday.
Jennings had a sacrifice fly during a two-run third and made it 5-0 in the fifth with a two-run homer off Francisco Liriano (0-3).
Liriano went five innings, allowing five runs, three hits and four walks. The left-hander has given up 22 runs, 25 hits and 13 walks over 16 1-3 innings this season.
"Frankie had another rough start. ... It doesn't look like he's pitching with a lot of confidence right now," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We're going to step back and see what we need to do to try and help him out, get his confidence back, and try to figure some things out to help him. We're going to review the whole situation and see what's best for our ballclub and him."
Josh Willingham went 0 for 2, which ended his season-opening 15-game hitting streak that had tied Kirby Puckett's Twins' record set in 1994. Willingham walked once and was hit by a pitch.
The Rays took a 2-0 lead - on sacrifice flys by Jennings and Ben Zobrist - in the third without getting a hit. Liriano loaded the bases with no outs with two walks and a hit batter.
"As soon as a couple things happened out there, he started misfiring," Gardenhire said. "Quit attacking the zone. I think he gets away from wanting to throw his fastball, and that's his bread and butter. He pitches off the fastball."
"You can see him start kind of moping around a little bit on the mound," Gardenhire added. "He's a really good pitcher with great stuff. We just have to figure out a way to get his confidence back up there to where he commands everything."
Evan Longoria got the Rays' first hit leading off the fourth, a high fly to left that struck an overhanging catwalk and then landed in shallow center. He scored to make it 3-0 on B.J. Upton's sacrifice fly.
Upton added another sacrifice fly in the eighth, which gave the Rays a team record fourth sac fly in one game.
Tampa Bay's Jeff Niemann didn't allow a hit until Clete Thomas' two-out single in the fifth. He left one inning later with the bases loaded and one out. After Jake McGee struck out Justin Morneau, pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit cut the Twins' deficit to 5-2 on a two-run single off Wade Davis.
Niemann (1-2) gave up two runs and three hits in 5 1-3 innings. His teammate at Rice University, Phil Humber, threw the first perfect game in the majors in almost two years as the Chicago White Sox beat Seattle 4-0 on Saturday.
The Twins went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position, and were 4 for 27 overall in losing two of three to Tampa Bay.
Doumit's two-run hit in the fifth appeared to give the Twins life, but they were unable to scratch across any more runs.
47: Strikes thrown by Liriano in 86 pitches. "I haven't talked to anybody, but whatever it is, if it's going to help me I'm going to do it," Liriano said. "They've given me a chance to go out and start, but I haven't done my job. So whatever they're going to do, it's OK with me." He added, "I can't locate my pitches at all," Liriano said. "Not even my fastball, my changeup, nothing. Nothing is working so far."
4: Sacrifice flies hit by the Rays on Sunday
15: Willlingham's hit streak to start the season, which ended on Sunday.
RHP Nick Blackburn (shoulder) threw a successful bullpen session on Sunday morning, which was the final green light for him to be slotted back into the rotation on Tuesday.
Monday: vs. Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. RHP Jason Marquis (1-0, 7.20) vs. LHP John Lester (0-2, 5.82)
Tuesday: vs. Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (0-1, 5.56) vs. RHP Josh Beckett (1-2, 5.03)
Wednesday: vs. Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. RHP Liam Hendriks (0-0, 3.86) vs. RHP Clay Buchholz (1-1, 9.00)