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Updated: May 17th, 2011 11:43pm
Twins Daily: Liriano drives skid-snapping win with Killebrew on sleeve

Twins Daily: Liriano drives skid-snapping win with Killebrew on sleeve

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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On the day the Minnesota Twins said goodbye to one of their greatest players, they also ended one of the worst slides in their recent history. Francisco Liriano struck out nine in seven strong innings and Michael Cuddyer's two-run single in the first held up in Tuesday's 2-1 win over the Seattle Mariners, snapping the Twins' nine-game losing streak.

The skinny

No-hitter notwithstanding, Liriano may have turned in his best performance in a largely disappointing season.

The left-hander allowed one run on three hits and walked only one, although he still needed 110 pitches (72 strikes) to get through seven innings.

Pitching with a lead surely didn't hurt. Cuddyer drove the first pitch he saw from Mariners starter Felix Hernandez into left-center field, scoring Matt Tolbert and Jason Kubel to give the Twins (13-27) a lead they never relinquished.

Players took the field with No. 3 sewn into the right sleeves of their jerseys -- a tribute to legendary slugger Harmon Killebrew, who passed away on Tuesday morning after a battle with cancer -- and turned in one of their cleaner outings.

They needed it to beat Hernandez, who allowed two runs on three hits in eight innings and struck out nine, including five of the last six batters he faced. The Twins were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left five on base.

Turning points

A wayward fastball plunked Brendan Ryan and sparked a two-out Mariners rally in the fifth inning.

Michael Saunders and Ichiro Suzuki followed with singles, the latter bringing home Ryan and advancing the potential tying run to third.

Liriano fell behind Chone Figgins 2-0. But after a visit from pitching coach Rick Anderson, Liriano threw his next three pitches in the zone, and catcher Rene Rivera held onto Figgins' foul tip to secure the strikeout and end the frame.

Seattle (17-24) didn't get another base runner until Twins closer Matt Capps walked Miguel Olivo with one out in the ninth. Jack Cust grounded Capps' next pitch to third baseman Danny Valencia, whose decision to throw to second base was saved by an out call by Jerry Meals.

Mariners manager Eric Wedge's protest yielded nothing except an ejection, and Capps' next pitch sawed off Adam Kennedy, yielding a soft bounce out to second base to end it.

Numbers game

6: Members of the Target Field grounds crew who lifted home plate and slipped a black-and-white photo of Killebrew underneath, where it will stay for the rest of the season.

10: Strikeouts in 16 at-bats (62.5%) since returning from the disabled list for Delmon Young, who was benched on Tuesday in favor of Ben Revere.

Health watch

• C Joe Mauer (bilateral leg weakness) joined DH Jim Thome (minor back strain) and IF Tsuyoshi Nishioka (fractured fibula) in Fort Myers, Fla., to continue his rehabilitation work.

• OF Jason Repko (strained right quad) was 2-for-5 with a home run in his first rehab game at Class-AAA Rochester.

On deck

The Twins open another two-game series on Wednesday (9:05 p.m., 1500 ESPN Twin Cities) against right-hander Brandon McCarthy (1-4, 3.34) and the Oakland Athletics, who entered Tuesday's games one game back in the American League West Division.

A 17th-round pick by the Chicago White Sox in 2002, McCarthy is back after a third stress fracture in his throwing shoulder had him playing Class-AAA ball in the Texas Rangers organization and considering retirement last year. He signed a $1 million deal in December, adjusted his arm slot to lower the release from his 6-foot-8 frame and has five quality starts in eight outings this season.

McCarthy is 1-0 with a 1.63 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 27 2/3 career innings against the Twins, who will counter with Carl Pavano (2-4, 5.89). The veteran right-hander threw 115 pitches, walked three and struck out only one in 5 2/3 scoreless innings on Friday against Toronto. He's 3-0 with a 2.57 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 28 career innings against Oakland.

Coming up

• Thursday: at Oakland, 2:35 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (2-4, 3.70) vs. RHP Tyson Ross (3-2, 2.50).
• Friday: at Arizona, 8:40 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (2-3, 4.61) vs. TBD.
• Saturday: at Arizona, 9:10 p.m. RHP Scott Baker (2-3, 3.99) vs. TBD.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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