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Updated: July 6th, 2011 3:45pm
Twins Daily: Cuddyer continues tear, but bullpen implodes in loss

Twins Daily: Cuddyer continues tear, but bullpen implodes in loss

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MINNEAPOLIS -- A Michael Cuddyer solo home run evened the score at 5-5 in the bottom of the seventh, but a four-run top of the eighth off of reliever Alex Burnett put the game out of reach as the Tampa Bay Rays left Target Field with a 12-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday.

The Skinny

After being outscored 10-2 in the first two games of the series, the Rays' bats finally awoke as starter Francisco Liriano allowed five runs and the bullpen gave up another seven in the final two innings. Liriano began the game by hitting Johnny Damon in the back and then allowing a two-run home run by Kelly Shoppach in the bottom of the 2nd. Liriano hit Damon again to start the third inning and Sean Rodriguez in the fourth, in addition to four walks.

"Frankie kept us out on the field a little bit too long, he was kind of misfiring all over the place and never really got into a good groove," Gardenhire said. "You kind of wait in those moments because we've seen Frankie actually find it and start rolling along but it didn't happen out there today."

Liriano failed to showcase much control in his start as he walked four batters, hit three and also had a wild pitch in his 4 2/3 innings of work.

"It seems like I can feel when I'm (rushing mechanics)," Liriano said. "That's one of the reasons I get so pissed off at myself, because I know what I'm doing wrong, and I just keep doing it."

Despite the seven free passes dealt by Liriano, the Twins remained in the game, as a pair of two-RBI singles -- one by Cuddyer in the fourth and another by Jim Thome in the fifth -- kept the Rays' lead at 5-4. Anthony Swarzak relieved Liriano in the fifth and struck out the final two batters of the inning.

Swarzak continued to the seventh before walking B.J. Upton and giving up a single to Casey Kotchman. Left-hander Jose Mijares came in to face left-handed Matt Joyce and struck him out on a 90 mph fastball after falling behind 3-0 in the count. Alex Burnett came on to finish up the inning and got Shoppach to ground out to second.

After Michael Cuddyer's solo shot in the bottom half of the seventh, Burnett returned for the eighth with the score at 5-5 but that soon changed as Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton each plated runs and then Rodriguez knocked a Burnett slider out of the park to score two more.

"The bullpen did a good job up until (Burnett)," Gardenhire said. "We needed (Burnett) really in the eighth to get through that inning. We've had to go to our bullpen an awful lot the last couple of days so we needed him to get us through the eighth. It didn't work out he made some bad pitches and the game kind of got away from us."

The Rays tacked on three more runs off of Phil Dumatrait in the ninth as Evan Longoria picked up his second, third and fourth RBIs of the game with a three-run home run, his 11th of the season.

Turning Point

Burnett entered the game in the bottom of the seventh and forced Kelly Shoppach to ground out to end the inning but with one out in the top of the eighth, the Rays offense teed off.

Designated hitter Sam Fuld got things started with an infield single, Burnett walked Ben Zobrist and then Longoria brought in Fuld on an RBI single.

"I think the first guy gets on, you walk another guy that's terrible on four pitches after you get an out," Gardenhire said. "He's better than that he's been throwing really, really good you have got to attack the strike zone and then once it got going he just couldn't stop it."

Zobrist crossed the plate on a sacrifice groundout and then Sean Rodriguez took the first pitch he saw from Burnett into the left field seats for his fourth home run of the season.

The four runs by Burnett was the most that he has allowed out of the bullpen this season and second time that he's given up four in his Twins career with the last time coming on September 24 in a 10-1 loss to Detroit last season.

Numbers Game

3: hits for Tsuyoshi Nishioka, his first career three-hit game. Going 3-3 with a walk, Nishioka upped his batting average from .188 to .217, the highest it's been since June 27.

3: times that Liriano hit a batter, twice the victim was DH Johnny Damon who left the game in the fourth inning with a contusion to his left hand. The franchise record for hit batsmen in a game is 4, done by Bert Blyleven on April 22, 1988. Liriano hit two batters four times in 2010.

4: runners stranded on third base by the Twins. 1-4-5-6 innings

5: earned runs surrendered by Liriano. The second time he's allowed that many in his last three starts.

9: days since Jose Mijares had pitched last for the Twins before Wednesday. Mijares fell behind 3-0 against Matt Joyce but battled back and struck him out, helping the Twins escape the top of the 7th inning without giving up a run.

0: Hits allowed by the Rochester Red Wings on Wednesday night -- a combined no-hitter thrown by Jeff Manship, Jake Stevens, Kyle Waldrop and Jim Hoey.


"I haven't talked to (Matt Capps) yet today and I'll probably talk to him about it, but we'll probably get to the end (of a game) and maybe give him a little bit of a blow here. I know he's frustrated, so we'll see what we can do."
-- Gardenhire on his closer situation, which remains up in the air. Gardenhire said Joe Nathan would have closed Wednesday had such a situation arised.

Health Report

• RHP Scott Baker was scheduled to receive an MRI on his strained right elbow Wednesday afternoon. Baker downplayed the severity of the injury on Tuesday night, but Gardenhire said Anthony Swarzak will start in place of Baker on Sunday in Chicago. "There's a pretty good chance of that," Gardenhire said. "Bake says he feels pretty good today, (but) there's a pretty good chance that we give him those days and then the All-Star break days. We'll all probably feel a little bit better about it letting him get through that, so we'll probably start the other guy, Swarzy, and go from there."

• OF Denard Span (concussion) will travel with the team to Chicago to take batting practice and
participate in pre-game workouts. After that, Span will take the All-Star break to rest up, and trainers will re-evaluate from there.

• OF Delmon Young (sprained ankle) went 1-for-4 with a double as the DH for Triple-A Rochester on Wednesday night.

• RHP Kevin Slowey (abdominal strain) will start and throw 70-75 pitches for Rochester on Sunday.

On Deck:

After wrapping up a nine-game homestand, the Twins will hit the road for a four-game series with the Chicago White Sox. The Twins are 4-0 this season against the White Sox including a two-game sweep on May 3-4. Three of the four games have been decided by one run, including Liriano's no-hitter on May 3.

Toeing the rubber for the Twins to start the series will be right-hander Carl Pavano. Pavano (5-6, 4.19) picked up a no decision on Saturday against the Brewers after pitching 7.2 innings and allowing four runs (three earned) before when Capps blew the save and picked up the loss in the ninth. In his three seasons with the Twins, Pavano is 6-2 with a 3.56 ERA against the White Sox including 2-0 with a 3.21 ERA at U.S. Cellular Field.

On the mound for the White Sox will be their top starter in 2011 and former Minnesota Twin, right-handed Philip Humber. Humber (8-4, 2.69) is tied for ninth in the American League in wins and is eighth in ERA. Humber is 2-1 with a 1.69 ERA in his last three starts which included seven innings of five-hit ball in a 1-0 win over against the cross-town rival Chicago Cubs on Saturday. Humber was a member of the Twins bullpen in 2008 and 2009, appearing in 13 games and compiling a 6.24 ERA before he became a free agent after the 2009 season and signed with the Kansas City Royals. Humber has faced the Twins only once, picking upping his second major league victory, pitching 2.2 innings in relief for the Royals in a 10-8 win on September 27 of last season.

Coming Up:

Friday: @ Chicago White Sox, 7:10 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (6-6, 4.02) vs. RHP Gavin Floyd (6-8, 4.17)
Saturday: @ Chicago White Sox, 3:10 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (6-7, 4.25) vs. LHP Mark Buehrle (6-5,
Sunday: @ Chicago White Sox, 1:10 p.m. RHP Anthony Swarzak (1-2, 3.71) vs. RHP Jake Peavy (4-2, 3.83)

Phil Mackey contributed to this report.