Twins Daily: Liriano issues career-high seven walks in loss to Red Sox
MINNEAPOLIS -- A combined nine walks issued by Francisco Liriano and Matt Capps, coupled with an inopportune slip by Phil Dumatrait proved to be too much for the Minnesota Twins to overcome in a 4-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night.
For the second consecutive night, the Twins took an early lead only to let it slip away in the middle and late innings.
In this latest loss, it was a combination of walks and an untimely defensive gaffe that played key roles in the Twins' demise, as left-hander Dumatrait's inability to cleanly field David Ortiz's slow roller in the top of the seventh allowed Dustin Pedroia to cross home plate safely for the game's decisive run.
"When you lose, it's not always one thing," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "There are plenty of things that are involved. And there were tonight."
Twins' starter Liriano has been wildly inconsistent all season, but Tuesday night's performance may have trumped them all. The left-hander somehow managed to allow only three runs in six innings, despite issuing a career-high seven walks.
The Twins had a chance to bust the game open on newly acquired Boston right-hander Erik Bedard in the bottom of the first inning, but instead settled for only two runs. A sacrifice fly by Michael Cuddyer and a bases-loaded walk on a close pitch by Delmon Young was all the offense the Twins could muster, despite Bedard hurling 37 pitches in the frame.
"He kind of got out of it," Gardenhire said. "We had a lot of good at-bats, a lot of close pitches, and we took a lot of balls. Unfortunately we only got two runs out of the whole situation. A couple of guys got a little antsy and took some swings pretty quick and didn't let him finish himself off, because he was definitely not finding the strike zone. And we had a chance to open that up with a few more runs there."
Both teams posted zeros until the top of the fifth, when former Twin Darnell McDonald roped a two-run homer into the left-field upper deck to tie the game.
Jason Varitek's RBI single in the top of the sixth briefly gave the Red Sox a 3-2 lead, but Tsuyoshi Nishioka tied it again with an RBI double off the right-field scoreboard in the bottom of the frame.
Nishioka's booming double gave the Twins new life heading into the final three innings.
But Matt Capps came on to relieve Liriano and immediately loaded the bases with one out via walks issued to Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis sandwiched around a double by Adrian Gonzalez.
Lefty Dumatrait then came in to face left-handed hitting Ortiz, who hit a weak tapper inside the first-base line. Dumatrait ran over for what likely would have been an easy flip to catcher Drew Butera to force the lead runner, but instead he fell to his knees without being able to grab the ball.
Everyone was safe, and the Red Sox took a 4-3 lead they would not relinquish.
"I made my pitch, and he just happened to hit it in a spot to where it (was) a do-or-die play," Dumatrait said after the game. "Unfortunately I didn't make the play. ...
"I didn't feel like I had time to slow myself down and field it and flip it, so the plan was to just go and get it and flip it to the plate. ... My momentum was going, and that's why I look like I tripped. I didn't trip. I was just down there and trying to flip it."
53: Strikes thrown by Liriano in 109 pitches. "Kind of all over the place," Liriano said about his performance. "They're one of the best teams in baseball right now, so you have to make sure you don't make a mistake like I did in the fifth inning. I was getting behind in the count too much."
9: Walks issued by Twins pitchers.
1: Walks drawn by Twins hitters in 182 plate appearances prior to Tuesday's game.
4: Walks drawn by Twins hitters in the first inning.
1,708: Career walks for Jim Thome, which ties him with Mel Ott for eighth on the all-time list.
5: Extra-base hits for Nishioka this season.
39: Extra-base hits for J.J. Hardy.
• Right-handers Kyle Gibson and Anthony Slama were both diagnosed with strained right flexor muscles on Tuesday, with Gibson also being told he had a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. Neither will undergo surgery as of right now.
• 1B Justin Morneau (neck surgery, wrist) went 3-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI for Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday night. If everything continues to progress well, Gardenhire said Morneau could be activated in time for Monday's game against the Detroit Tigers. "I know he's chomping at the bit," Gardenhire said. "He texted Billy (Smith, Twins' GM) and told Billy he's going to be here (Wednesday) to face Lester. And Billy told him, 'We'll see you in Detroit.' We'll see what happens. We'd like him to go back and play in Rochester. But he's anxious; very, very anxious. We're trying to calm him down. He's swinging good, he's getting hits. We just want to make sure he gets plenty of at-bats where we have no doubt he's ready."
• 2B Alexi Casilla (pulled hamstring) is likely to be activated in time for Friday night's game in Cleveland.
The Twins and Red Sox wrap up their season series Wednesday night (7:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN) when right-hander Nick Blackburn (7-9, 4.58) faces left-hander Jon Lester (11-5, 3.23).
Despite spending time on the DL in July with a back strain, Lester is having his usual solid season. In 21 starts this season, Lester has allowed three eanred runs or fewer 16 times, including nine starts of one earned run allowed or fewer.
Prior to Baker landing on the DL, it was Blackburn who was at risk of losing his spot in the starting rotation. Gardenhire indicated last weekend that Blackburn needed to turn things around, or he may risk being replaced by Anthony Swarzak or Kevin Slowey. But with Slowey taking Baker's spot in the rotation on Sunday, Blackburn might have more leeway. Still, he owns an 8.15 ERA in his last eight starts and needs to find a groove quickly.
• Thursday: Off day
• Friday: @ Indians, 6:05 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (6-9, 4.71) vs. RHP Josh Tomlin (11-5, 4.08).
• Saturday: @ Indians, 6:05 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (8-10, 4.56) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (8-9, 4.55).