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Updated: July 1st, 2011 11:41pm
Twins Daily: Thome, Liriano help snap 7-game skid against Brewers

Twins Daily: Thome, Liriano help snap 7-game skid against Brewers

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- A solid performance by Francisco Liriano and a three-run bomb by Jim Thome helped the Minnesota Twins snap a seven-game losing streak to the Milwaukee Brewers with a 6-2 win at rain-soaked Target Field on Friday night.

The skinny

Battling shaky control throughout most of the game, Liriano settled down after allowing two early runs to pitch seven strong innings, striking out seven while allowing only four hits and two walks. It was the fourth time in five starts Liriano has whiffed at least seven batters, and he lowered his season ERA to 4.76 with the performance -- down from 9.13 at the beginning of May.

"Frankie got better and better as the game went along," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I though Joe Mauer did a super job of slowing him down, calming him down. They were talking between innings and I thought it all worked out pretty dog gone good. Good sight for us all to see, Frankie calming down and doing what he did."

The only offense Liriano really needed came off the bat of Thome, who mashed a three-run homer to opposite field in the bottom of the first inning.

With the victory, the Twins snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Brewers dating back to last season.

Turning point

With the Twins looking to pad a 3-2 lead, it was first baseman Prince Fielder's fielding gaffe in the bottom of the fifth inning that led to a crooked number.

Ben Revere and Alexi Casilla led off the inning by drawing back-to-back walks off right-hander Yovani Gallardo, bringing Joe Mauer to the plate.

Mauer pulled a weak groundball to Fielder, who watched the ball trickle right through his legs and into right field, allowing Revere to score and Casilla to scamper to third base.

Fielder likely would have started a 3-6-3 double play had he fielded cleanly, but instead the Twins had runners on first and third with nobody out. Michael Cuddyer followed with a run-scoring 6-4-3 double play ball, which was enough to give the Twins a 5-2 lead.

Numbers game

2: The number of hours spent waiting out severe weather before first pitch.

594: Career home runs for Thome. "I don't try to hit the ball the other way," Thome said. "I try to hit the ball wherever it's pitched. Typically they shift on me, so one of the things that happens is when I do hit the ball the other way it's usually in the air, and when it can go out... Yeah." He added, "It is pretty cool. Anytime you get up there in age, you want to do the things you did at 25 or 30."

0: Home runs by Twins designated hitters since May 23 until Thome's blast Friday night. Thome hit two home runs on May 23.

1: Scoreless inning pitched by right-hander Joe Nathan, who struck out one and threw eight of his 11 pitches for strikes.

3: Singles for Mauer, who has only three multi-hit games all season. With a 3-for-4 performance, Mauer raised his batting line to .241/.282/.291 on the season. "Just be patient with him," Gardenhire said. "He's one of the best hitters in our league and he's been through an awful lot. On the base four times tonight, hitting the ball hard pretty much every time up, and you're going to see a lot more of it. Just mark my word. I think for those of you who have been around here you've seen it plenty of times, and for those of you who had doubted him you should slap yourself. Right in the face. Slap yourself. Go ahead, all you guys that doubt him cause he's pretty damn good."

3: Career home runs by Carlos Gomez against the Twins after a solo shot in the first inning.

Overheard

"If we lock out too long you know we gotta explore our other options."
-- Former Gophers basketball player Kris Humphries, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Friday's game. Accompanied by the ballpark by his fiancé Kim Kardashian, Humphries was joking about needing a new line of work if the NBA lockout lingers.

Health report

• 1B Justin Morneau "demonstrated an increase in strength already" following Wednesday's neck surgery, according to heath athletic trainer Rick McWane, "which the doctors felt was a very good sign."

• OF Jason Kubel will sit out Friday and Saturday before possibly DHing on Sunday after re-aggravating his sprained left foot in a rehab game Thursday with Single-A Fort Myers.

• RHP Kevin Slowey (abdominal strain) threw 3 1/3 innings (50 pitches) for Fort Myers on Thursday and reported no issues. He'll travel to Rochester on Sunday and will likely make his next start on Tuesday.

• OF Delmon Young (sprained ankle) is "feeling great," McWane said. Young will travel to Rochester on Sunday to start a rehab assignment and will likely be ready to rejoin the Twins after the All-Star break.

• OF Denard Span (concussion) took part in long toss and running on Friday, and trainers are hopeful he can participate in batting practice sometime soon, "although we don't have a date right now," McWane said.

On deck

Right-hander Carl Pavano (5-6, 4.24) and left-hander Chris Narveson (5-5, 4.42) face each other for the second time in six days Saturday (6:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN Twin Cities) as the Twins and Brewers continue their interleague feud.

In a 6-2 loss last Sunday, Pavano threw 102 pitches in six innings giving up five earned runs. Narveson pitched into the seventh inning allowing two runs on five hits while striking out seven.

Pavano struggled throughout the month of May posting a 5.26 ERA through 37 2/3 innings in six starts while allowing batters to hit a collective .331/.353/.491. June has been a different story. In just five starts Pavano totaled 39 innings of work and threw two complete games while posting a 2.54 ERA. Pavano ranks among the league's stingiest in terms of issuing free passes at 1.83 walks per nine innings (10th in MLB). Active Brewer hitters own a .297/.331/.484 hitting line against Pavano. Ryan Braun has hit the ball exceptionally well -- four hits in ten at bats with two home runs and six RBI's against the Twins right hander.

Narveson has had an up and down season thus far. On three occasions this season the left-hander has been taken out before the fifth inning, but in June, Narveson owns a 3.94 ERA with 27 strikeouts and 14 walks in 32 innings. Throughout that span hitters have hit .217/.299/.325 against the lefty. Michael Cuddyer has had the best success against Narveson with two hits in five at bats one double and one RBI.

Coming up

• Sunday: vs. Milwaukee, 1:10 p.m. RHP Nick Blackburn (6-6, 3.64) vs. RHP Zack Greinke (7-2, 4.77).
• Monday: vs. Tampa Bay, 12:10 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (5-7, 4.69) vs. LHP David Price (8-6, 3.43).
• Tuesday: vs. Tampa Bay, 7:10 p.m. RHP Scott Baker (6-5, 3.15) vs. RHP James Shields (8-5, 2.45).

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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