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Updated: April 13th, 2011 2:56pm
Twins Daily: Royals bullpen stops Twins' rally short in series finale

Twins Daily: Royals bullpen stops Twins' rally short in series finale

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Kansas City Royals bled Francisco Liriano for seven runs in five-plus innings and held on to beat the Minnesota Twins 10-5 on Wednesday afternoon, splitting a two-game series at Target Field.

The skinny

Three Royals relievers -- Kanekoa Texeira, Tim Collins and Jeremy Jeffress -- combined for four shutout innings to put the game away.

Denard Span singled in the bottom of the sixth and the ninth. But those were the only balls that left the infield after the Twins ripped Royals starter Kyle Davies for five earned runs on 10 hits in five innings, including a four-run bottom of the fifth.

"The last couple days, I thought the ball was coming off our bats pretty good," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We had a lot better at-bats, and we made some things happen. We got back into the game (Wednesday) by swinging the bats and having some good at-bats. So, I think that's a good thing."

Alex Gordon's broken-bat bloop to right with the bases loaded turned into a two-run double in the top of the ninth, and Jeff Francoeur's sacrifice fly provided a third insurance run.

After Span led off the bottom of the ninth with a single to center, Matt Tolbert and Jason Kubel fouled out, and Justin Morneau struck out to end it.

"They have a good bullpen," Twins catcher Drew Butera said. "It's a new bullpen out there, and they throw the ball well, like (Tuesday) night and (Wednesday). We strung a couple together, and we like to see that. We've been struggling a little bit. So, it's good for us to see that we've still go the bats with us."

Turning point

Down five early, the Twins had just pulled within a run when Gardenhire sent Liriano -- who had thrown only 71 pitches -- to the mound for the top of the sixth inning.

Liriano issued a leadoff walk to Wilson Betemit and then gave way to Glen Perkins, who promptly gave up an RBI double to Mike Aviles that pushed the Royals' lead to 7-5 and halted whatever momentum the Twins had.

"The ball just seemed to find holes," Gardenhire said. "Nothing was hit really, really hard. Maybe a couple of them. But balls just kept finding places and rolling through. A frustrating inning for him I'm sure."

Numbers game

6: Consecutive Royals batters who hits safely to start the fourth inning and then came around to score, giving Kansas City a 6-1 lead.

5: Consecutive hits by the Twins to start the bottom of the fifth. Four of them scored to cut Kansas City's lead to 6-5.

53: Strikes Liriano threw in 78 pitches (67.9%) -- easily his highest percentage of the season. He gave up seven earned runs on eight hits, striking out four and walking one in five-plus innings.

0: Times C Drew Butera reached base in four plate appearances. He started and batted ninth in place of Joe Mauer even though the Royals started Davies, a right-hander.

36,286: Attendance for Wednesday's game, the second consecutive non-sellout.

Health watch

• 2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka (fractured fibula) and RHP Kevin Slowey (shoulder strain) remain on the 15-day disabled list.

Overheard

"I like Alexi's defense. The way he moved around (Tuesday) night was better. He had more energy. But if he continues to wave at the ball like he's been doing -- I need him to swing. And I told him that again last night: 'Swing the bat, son.' So hopefully, he'll get going."
-- Gardenhire on SS Alexi Casilla, who entered the day with three hits in 21 at-bats (.143 average). He was replaced in Wednesday's lineup by Tolbert and could cede time to Luke Hughes as well, Gardenhire said.

On deck

Right-hander Carl Pavano (1-1, 6.00 ERA) will get the ball at 5:40 p.m. Thursday, when the Twins open a four-game series at Tampa Bay. Pavano threw an eight-inning gem in his last start, a 2-1 win over Oakland, and is 5-4 with a 3.84 ERA in 75 career innings against the Rays. He'll oppose Tampa Bay right-hander Wade Davis (0-2, 4.38), who gave up two runs on five hits over six innings against the Chicago White Sox on Saturday. Over three seasons, the 25-year-old former third-round pick has allowed 10 runs in 10 1/3 innings against the Twins.

Coming up

• Friday: at Tampa Bay, 6:10 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (1-1, 0.77 ERA) vs. RHP Jeff Niemann (0-2, 8.31).
• Saturday: at Tampa Bay, 3:10 p.m. RHP Scott Baker (0-2, 6.55) vs. RHP Jeremy Hellickson (1-1, 4.09).
• Sunday: at Tampa Bay, 12:40 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (0-0, 4.15) vs. LHP David Price (1-2, 3.92).

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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