Playing at Target Field has usually translated into success for the Minnesota Twins. And when Francisco Liriano has taken the mound, the current American League Central leaders have been nearly invincible as of late.
Liriano aims for a seventh consecutive winning decision and improve upon his team’s already-strong home record when the Twins continue a three-game series with the Detroit Tigers this evening.
Since the All-Star break, Liriano has compiled a 6-0 record along with an excellent 2.47 earned run average over seven starts and has surrendered two runs or fewer in six of those outings. The standout lefty hasn’t lost since a forgettable performance against the Tigers in Detroit on July 9, when he was battered for seven runs and six hits in only 1 2/3 innings of work.
Liriano also was dealt a defeat by the Tigers at Target Field back on June 28, a game in which he permitted six runs in six innings. That was one of only three losses for the native Dominican in Minneapolis this season, and he’s gone 3-0 in five home starts that followed that poor showing.
The 26-year-old, who’s 6-3 with a 2.72 ERA over 12 Target Field assignments, continued his recent winning ways by holding AL West-leading Texas to two runs and five hits over seven sharp innings this past Thursday in Arlington.
In 14 career appearances (10 starts) against Detroit, Liriano is 4-3 with a 5.24 ERA.
He’ll be attempting to pitch the Twins to victory for the 13th time in their last 15 home tilts this evening. Minnesota moved to 41-22 in its first-year ballpark with a 4-3 triumph over the Tigers in Tuesday’s opener of this set, with the defending division champions rallying from a early 3-0 deficit to prevail.
The Twins had been shut out until Michael Cuddyer delivered an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth inning and later scored on Danny Valencia’s ground- rule double that cut the lead to 3-2. Minnesota then scored twice in the seventh to move in front, taking advantage of an off night from the Detroit bullpen.
Minnesota put two men on with two outs in the bottom of the seventh when Tigers reliever Phil Coke (7-4) walked J.J. Hardy and later hit Joe Mauer with a pitch. Ryan Perry then stepped in and drilled Jason Kubel in the left wrist to load the bases before walking Cuddyer to force home the tying run. Delmon Young followed with a single that plated Mauer for a 4-3 lead.
Randy Flores and Jesse Crain teamed up to hold the Tigers scoreless in the eighth before substitute closer Matt Capps protected the one-run edge in the ninth to record the save.
Capps was filling in for the recently-acquired Brian Fuentes after the ex- Angel incurred a stiff back while warming up during the game. Both he and Kubel are expected to sit out tonight’s test due to their injuries, while second baseman Orlando Hudson could also miss the game because of a sprained right ankle that’s bothered him over the past few days.
Tuesday’s triumph kept the Twins four games ahead of second-place Chicago in the AL Central standings after the White Sox defeated Cleveland last night.
The Tigers have now dropped three of their last four and continue to struggle as the visitor in this series. Detroit is now a woeful 3-14 in Minneapolis since the start of the 2009 campaign and have lost six of seven meetings with the Twins on the road this season.
Minnesota has won eight of 13 overall matchups between the clubs in 2010 as well.
Max Scherzer can give Detroit a good chance of ending those struggles if he continues to pitch like he has over the past few weeks. The young right-hander enters tonight’s clash having won his last three starts and sports a stellar 1.31 ERA over his last six games, lasting at least six innings and permitting two runs or less on each of those occasions.
Scherzer was in top form Thursday in Toronto, where he limited the Blue Jays to one run and struck out eight over eight outstanding innings to earn his 10th win of the season. Five days earlier, the offseason acquisition gave up just two runs — one earned — and fanned eight Cleveland hitters to beat the Indians on August 21.
The former Arizona first-round draft choice has not fared well in two previous encounters with the Twins this season, however. Scherzer allowed six runs and 10 hits — two of which were homers — before exiting after only 3 2/3 innings in a no-decision against Minnesota on April 28, and was blasted for 10 runs in 4 1/3 frames during a loss at Target Field on May 3.