The Minnesota Twins needed to win on Sunday afternoon at Target Field to move back to within five games of the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central standings. Unfortunately, "bad" Francisco Liriano took the hill for Minnesota, and dug the Twins into a hole that they could not get themselves out of, resulting in a 5-2 loss that drops them seven games back.
Liriano (6-8, 4.82 ERA) got through the first inning with relatively few issues, but control problems cropped up in the top of the second inning. After Jhonny Peralta struck out to start the inning, Ryan Raburn drew a walk, and moved to second on a wild pitch by Liriano. After a strikeout by Wilson Betemit, Ramon Santiago reached on an infield single to put runners on the corners with two out. With Austin Jackson at the plate, Liriano uncorked his second wild pitch of the inning to allow Raburn to score and give the Tigers a 1-0 lead. Liriano proceeded to walk Jackson. . .his third walk in two innings. . .before getting Brandon Boesch to fly out to end the inning.
It got no better in the top of the third, as Liriano walked Magglio Ordonez to start the inning. After a strikeout of Miguel Cabrera, Liriano gave up four consecutive singles to Victor Martinez, Peralta, Raburn, and Betemit. Two runs were the result, and the Twins trailed 3-0. Anthony Swarzak came in to relieve Liriano, who was lifted after just 2.1 innings of work that took him 78 pitches to get through. The Tigers got another run on a fielder's choice by Santiago to make the score 4-0, but Swarzak got out of the inning with no further damage being done.
The Twins got a couple of runs back in the bottom of the fourth when Michael Cuddyer led off the inning with a walk. After a strikeout by Jason Kubel, Danny Valencia doubled to left to put runners on second and third. Jim Thome's groundout scored Cuddyer to make the score 4-1, and Delmon Young followed that up with a double to left to score Valencia and cut the deficit to 4-2.
That's all the offense the Twins would be able to manage off of Detroit starter Rick Porcello (10-6, 4.67 ERA). Porcello held the Twins to just those two runs on five hits in six innings of work, and the Twins managed just two more hits the rest of the way. Detroit added an insurance run in the top of the sixth courtesy of another wild pitch, this one by Swarzak, that allowed Jackson to score and give us the final score of 5-2.
The Twins fall to 3-5 in their two series against the teams that were the AL Central co-leaders at the start of the week, and now sit seven games out of first place in the American League Central standings with 61 games remaining in the season.
Minnesota now leaves the friendly confines of Target Field for a ten-game road trip, starting with a four-game series in Arlington against the red-hot Texas Rangers. The first game of the series is on Monday night, with the first pitch scheduled for 7:05 PM Central time. The pitching match-up will see right-hander Nick Blackburn (7-6, 3.87 ERA) take the hill for the Twins, while the Rangers counter with left-hander Derek Holland (8-4, 4.65 ERA).