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Updated: August 20th, 2011 9:27pm
Twins Daily: Early offensive explosion sets tone in win over Yankees

Twins Daily: Early offensive explosion sets tone in win over Yankees

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- It doesn't erase the fact that the Minnesota Twins entered Saturday's game 19-61 in their last 80 games against the New York Yankees, but a 9-4 blowout win helped ease the pain, if only for one night.

The skinny

Francisco Liriano provided one of his better efforts in an otherwise disappointing season, shutting down a potent Yankees lineup for seven innings, allowing only one run (zero earned) on three hits and three walks while striking out six.

Offensively, the Twins jumped all over A.J. Burnett early on, chasing the right-hander after only 1 2/3 innings. The Twins scored seven runs on six hits and four walks in the first two frames alone.

"Some quality at-bats early, taking pitches and getting on the base," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Some big hits, and put some runs on the board, and Liriano did what he had to do with it. ...

"I felt pretty good the way Liriano was throwing the ball, but against that lineup over there, they can do a lot of things. They can score quickly and often. But like I said, I feel pretty good with Francisco out there."

Five Twins hitters tallied at least two hits -- Ben Revere (2-for-5, one run, two RBIs), Trevor Plouffe (2-for-4, a walk, two runs), Joe Mauer (2-for-4, a walk, two runs), Jason Kubel (3-for-5, one run, two RBIs) and Luke Hughes (2-for-3, a walk, one run, one RBI).

Danny Valencia added a home run and two walks, and Justin Morneau drove in two of his own.

"It's kind of a long, overdue feeling," Valencia said. "We've played these guys tough, but at the same time we've come up empty-handed a bunch. So it's nice to come out and win and win kind of big."

Turning point

In the past, the Twins have taken several early-inning leads against the Yankees, only to see the Bombers come storming back later on.

To ensure that didn't happen on Saturday, the Twins piled on a bunch of runs with two outs in the second inning.

Valencia's solo shot into the bullpen to lead off the frame put the Twins up 3-0, but Rene Tosoni immediately started a new rally by drawing a walk. Tosoni was caught stealing shortly after for the first out, but Hughes picked up the torch and doubled down the left-field line.

Matt Tolbert bounced one to first base for the second out, but that was the last batter Burnett would retire.

Revere singled to center, scoring Hughes to make it 4-0. Plouffe and Mauer then drew back-to-back walks -- the final one prompting Yankees manager Joe Girardi to pull Burnett, who barked at the manager on his way to the dugout.

Former Twin Luis Ayala fared no better. With the bases loaded, Ayala walked Morneau, then gave up a two-run single to Kubel that put the Twins up 7-0.

"We made (Burnett) work and throw pitches," Kubel said. "Lucky for us, we got him out there early. ... We kept it going, just had good at-bats all throughout the game."

Burnett wound up throwing 61 pitches -- only 31 for strikes -- in his short outing.

"This team scores a lot of runs, so you've got to score a bunch of runs to beat them," Valencia said.

"I think when we scored early like that, it kind of took them out of the game a little bit. So that was good for us."

Numbers game

13: Home runs for Valencia this season.

2: Bases-loaded walks issued out by Yankee pitchers.

9: Consecutive starts, heading into Saturday, in which Liriano had failed to retire the side in order in the first inning. He broke that streak by retiring Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira.

3: The number of times this season the Twins have won back-to-back games in which Liriano has started."It's been a tough year, kind of up and down," Liriano said. "It's been kind of hard for me to be a little bit more consistent. Things aren't going the way I want, (but) you've got to go out there and keep pitching. ... I'm walking a lot of guys, and getting behind in the count too much, and just kind of an up-and-down season."

3: Multi-hit games for Mauer in August.

12: Multi-hit games for Mauer in July.

Overheard

"I always feel like there's blood in the water. There's always blood to be gotten."
-- Valencia, when asked if the team smelled blood in the water after scoring two runs in the first inning.

Health report

• SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka was scratched before the game with back spasms, but he's likely to be back within a day or two.

• 1B Justin Morneau fouled a couple pitches off his right foot and wound up leaving the game in the eighth inning, partially because the Twins had already build a sizable lead.

• OF Michael Cuddyer (neck) took batting practice in the cage on Saturday and could be available to play on Sunday. It doesn't appear likely he will land on the disabled list.

• DH Jim Thome has been battling a stiff back over the past couple days, but he was available to pinch-hit on Saturday.

• OF Jason Repko (shoulder) joined Triple-A Rochester Saturday to begin a rehab assignment.

On deck

The Twins look for a series split on Sunday (1:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN) when right-hander Nick Blackburn (7-10, 4.53) takes the mound against Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova (12-4, 4.12).

Blackburn has allowed five earned runs or more in six of his last nine starts, and he currently owns the second-lowest swinging strike percentage of any pitcher in baseball (9%), next to only Brad Penny (8%). Blackburn has also allowed the fifth-most hits of any pitcher in baseball this season (182), behind Jeff Francis (190), Ricky Nolasco (191), Chris Carpenter (192) and teammate Carl Pavano (196).

Nova has emerged as a pleasant surprise for the Yankees, who have been forced to shuffle their starting rotation behind C.C. Sabathia more often than they'd probably like. That said, Nova is coming off perhaps his worst start of the season -- 5 1/3 innings, seven earned runs, nine hits, a walk and two strikeouts against the Kansas City Royals.

Coming up

• Monday: vs. Orioles, 7:10 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (6-9, 4.52) vs. RHP Jeremy Guthrie (5-16, 4.55)
• Tuesday: vs. Orioles, 7:10 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (8-12, 4.75) vs. RHP Alfredo Simon (3-6 4.68)
• Wednesday: vs. Orioles, 7:10 p.m. RHP Kevin Slowey (0-1, 6.20) 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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