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Updated: July 24th, 2011 6:30pm
Twins Daily: Liriano struggles mightily in deflating loss to Tigers

Twins Daily: Liriano struggles mightily in deflating loss to Tigers

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Francisco Liriano picked a bad time deliver one of his worst clunkers of the season, as the Minnesota Twins fell seven games out of first place after dropping Sunday's series finale 5-2 to the Detroit Tigers.

The skinny

In what turned out to be his shortest outing of the season, Liriano gave up four runs on six hits and four walks in only 2 1/3 innings on Sunday -- a disappointing outing in a game the Twins somewhat desperately needed to win.

The loss dropped the Twins to 6-6 on the 12-game homestand and seven games behind the Tigers for first place in the American League Central.

"He obviously was mis-firing all over," manager Ron Gardenhire said of Liriano, who left the ballpark without speaking to reporters. "(Pitching coach Rick Anderson) went out and talked to him twice, and we were trying to get him just to throw his fastball over the plate, and he couldn't really find anything."

The Twins' offense sparked for two runs in the fourth inning, but starter Rick Porcello posted mostly zeroes in his six innings, allowing five hits and two walks while striking out four. A trio of Tigers relievers allowed only two baserunners in the game's final three innings.

"Kind of a bummer to the home stand here," Gardenhire said. "A chance to go back and get within five, and we just didn't get it done."

Turning point

Already having labored through two innings, a four-pitch walk to Magglio Ordonez to start the third inning was the beginning of Liriano's downfall on Sunday.

After fighting back briefly to strike out Miguel Cabrera, Liriano got ahead of Victor Martinez 0-2 before Martinez hit a slow dribbler down the third base line for an infield single.

The next three batters -- Jhonny Peralta, Ryan Raburn and Wilson Betemit -- all followed with singles, putting the Tigers up 4-0 and bouncing Liriano from the game.

"The ball just was not going over the plate," Gardenhire said. "I think at one point he threw a couple strikes in a row, but I don't think there were too many times he did that. So that's a rough outing, that's not making any adjustments. (Liriano) is better than that. You know he's suppose to be one of our best pitchers, and today was just a really bad day. He didn't get it done."

Numbers game

2: Runs scored by the Tigers on wild pitches.

78: Pitches thrown by Liriano in only 2 1/3 innings. "He started off pretty good in the bullpen," catcher Joe Mauer said. "He was staying back, nice and easy, hitting his spots, and obviously it was a little different once we got out there." Prior to the game, Gardenhire hinted that Liriano might be too amped up because he has several friends in the Detroit clubhouse. "He was a little excited," Mauer said, "and maybe that had a little bit to do with it, knowing some people over there, but either way I know he's frustrated with it, and we're frustrated with the loss."

23%: The percentage of Tsuyoshi Nishioka's at-bats that wind up as strikeouts, which -- if he qualified for the batting title -- would lead all major league shortstops.

48.6%: Groundballs hit by the Twins offense this season, which ranks as the most in baseball.

39.6%: Groundballs hit by the Tigers, which ranks as the fewest in baseball.

6-6: The Twins' record on the 12-game homestand, which saw them lose ground in the AL Central standings. "I wouldn't say it's do or die," Jim Thome said. "I mean we had some teams coming in that we could have made some ground up, sure. And we have made ground, our club has gotten back in this thing, but any time you have two teams ahead of the division that come in you know it would have been nice to win a series from one of those teams. And it is what it is, we still have to stay focused."

20-10: The Twins' record during their stretch of 30 home games since June 9. "We've known that since we got ourselves 16 1/2 games below .500, we've known that we've been in a fight," Gardenhire said, adding "These guys know what we're doing here, we're battling our tails off. It's not like they're not trying, these guys have been battling. We came back from 16 1/2 to get within five, they know where they're at."

Health report

• OF Denard Span (concussion) went 0-for-4 on Sunday while playing seven innings in center field for Triple-A Rochester. He won't make his return to the Twins until he plays nine innings multiple days in a row.

• RHP Scott Baker reported no issues with his right elbow one day after throwing 82 pitches in his first game back from the disabled list. Baker will throw a bullpen session later this week and remains on track to make his next start on Thursday in Texas.

On deck

The Twins will begin a 10-game, 11-day road trip with a four-game series against the Texas Rangers on Monday (7:05 p.m., 1500 ESPN), sending Nick Blackburn (7-6, 3.87) to the mound to face left-hander Derek Holland (8-4, 4.65).

In his last two starts, Blackburn has allowed one earned run and eight hits in 13 innings while striking out ten and walking four. He also pitched well in his June 9 start against the Rangers, surrendering only two earned runs on 10 hits in 7 1/3 innings. Josh Hamilton owns a .500/.538/.750 batting clip against the Twins right-hander with one home run and three RBIs.

Entering his last start, Holland had thrown back-to-back complete game shutouts on the against Oakland and Seattle respectively. In his last start, however, Holland threw 5 1/3 innings, giving up nine hits and seven earned runs against the Los Angeles Angels. Holland was Blackburn's opponent on June 9, giving up eight hits and four earned runs while walking just one and striking out 10 in 7 1/3 innings. Delmon Young has two home runs and five hits in 10 at-bats against the Rangers lefty.

Coming up

• Tuesday: @ Texas, 7:05 p.m. RHP Carl Pavano (6-7, 4.24) vs. LHP C.J. Wilson (10-4, 2.94)
• Wednesday: @ Texas, 7:05 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (7-8, 4.53) vs. RHP Colby Lewis (10-7, 3.93)
• Thursday: @ Texas, 7:05 p.m. RHP Scott Baker (8-5, 2.88) vs. LHP Matt Harrison (8-7, 3.05)

Albert Maruggi contributed to this report

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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