Francisco Liriano


After the Twins won the last two games against KC, they laid an egg against Cleveland in the first two games of that series. Highlights from the first game, which ended with a score of 5-2:

Anthony Swarzak turning in a quality start, going 6 innings and giving up 4 total runs, but only 3 were earned.

Jose Mijares went two innings without giving up any hits. That is a very encouraging performance based on a few of the stats, but when you dig down deeper he threw 35 total pitches and just 19 were balls. He has struggled with control this year and pitching coach Rick Anderson really needs to work with Jose to get him back to his effective self.

Michael Cuddyer hit his team-leading 14th homer of the year, although it came in the bottom of the ninth inning when the Twins were already down 5-0. I still think he’s above his career averages for hitting, and will come back down to earth at some point this season. If that ends up being the case, the team’s win/loss record during his hot streak will be crucial for their final standing in the Central division.

Probably the only lowlight would be Matt Capps coming into the 9th (again, with the Twins down by 5 runs), and giving up a homerun to a pinch-hitter who has a .331 slugging percentage for the season. He really needs to start having outings where he is effective, to prove he can come back to be a successful reliever for us at some point.

 

The second game was a little more exciting, with the two teams actually tied at 2 runs apiece after the 6th inning. But Cleveland scored 2 runs in both the 7th and 9th innings to win 6-3.

 

Ben Revere had a forgettable day at the plate, combining to go 0-for-9 with no walks but also no strikeouts. He is still a very exciting player on the basepaths as well as in the field, so days like that at the plate just have to be accepted. Not everyone can go 3-for-4 in both games of a doubleheader like catcher/1B Joe Mauer did. He had a run-saving defensive play at first base in the first game, and also threw out a runner from behind the plate in the second game. I really like his defense at first but it’s obvious he’s the team’s catcher. I’m just happy he was able to play both games in full.

 

Scott Diamond, who got called up just yesterday, made his first Major League start in the second game of the doubleheader. He actually pitched pretty well I think. His breaking balls had good movement and although his fastball seemed to top out at 89 or 90 mph, he walked 2 and struck out 1 but most important is that he went 6 and 1/3 innings and gave up just 3 earned runs. He kept the team in the game and that’s what mattered most.

 

A lot of bloggers and fans have been clamoring to get pitcher Chuck James back up with the Major League club, and they all got his wish yesterday when he pitched the final inning in the second game. He showed fans why the Twins were possibly hesitant to recall him, as he threw 30 pitches to record all 3 outs and allowed 3 hits, 2 runs, and also committed a balk in the process. He doesn’t throw faster than 88 or 89 mph, has little to no movement on his breaking pitches, and really has no reason to be on the team in the first place. He’s been out of the Majors since he gave up 30 runs in 29 and 2/3 innings in 2008 with the Braves. At this point the bullpen is in such shambles that another bad pitcher coming into relief hardly even matters at this point.

 

Francisco Liriano tries to right the ship tonight in the third game against Cleveland.

It was a rocky start to the second half of the season for Francisco Liriano and batterymate Joe Mauer. In the first inning, a wild pitch got away from Mauer, allowing a run to score. In Mauer’s attempt to dish the ball back to Liriano, it skipped away and allowed another run to score. In Liriano’s defense, Mauer’s throw was absolutely terrible and he honestly had no reason to even toss the ball back home. Luckily it would prove to be a non-factor.

The Royals actually held a 3-0 lead heading into the bottom of the 5th, but the two-out Twins just happened to show up at that point. After a pop up and ground out by Alexi Casilla and Mauer, Mr. All-Star Michael Cuddyer drew a walk. Danny Valencia then added on to his team-leading RBI number with a double to score Cuddy. Delmon Young, in his first game back from a DL stint, smacked his second double of the game (en route to a 3-for-4 evening) to score Valencia. Then it was Trevor Plouffe‘s turn, a born-again utility man who has found his love for baseball again. He launched a home run to left field and frankly picked up where he left off at AAA. He would also single and walk during the game, hopefully giving us Twins fans some hope that he can be a solid offensive contributor down the stretch.

Thanks need to go out to the atrocious KC Royals pitching staff. Their starter, Bruce Chen, never threw faster than 84 mph. He also threw over to first base a total of 14 times – just when it was Casilla on first. In the Twins’ other scoring inning, the 7th, they scored two runs via a bases loaded walk and a bases loaded hit-by-pitch. Kudos to Ben Revere and Casilla for being troopers at the plate during that time.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka, our wonderful Japanese import, committed his seventh error of the season last night. I think I’m part of a small group that frankly isn’t too concerned with his poor defense. I feel like things will come around for him in time, and I think people forget that this is basically just his second month playing in the Major Leagues. He will adjust, and be a solid player. Already in July he’s posting a .324 batting average paired with a .425 on-base percentage. I don’t believe that he will be close to those numbers all season, but it is still encouraging to see him hitting the ball well when the team is trying to make a run at first place.

I leave you with a couple of interesting tidbits, found on Twitter (which is a fantastic invention, by the way. Follow me @tntryan for awesome baseball updates.)

From Nick, at Nick’s Twins Blog (@nnelson9) – “Since June 17th — about one calendar month — Matt Capps has struck out two hitters. Unbelievable.”

And from Parker Hageman at Over The Baggy (@overthebaggy) – “Liriano held a 13.00 K/BB ratio against lefties last year (52/4). That’s down to 1.50 K/BB this year (18/12).”

 

Very late edit: Plouffe is starting in RF tonight, further proving his willingness to be the best super-utility player this side of the Mississippi.

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Francisco Liriano‘s seven innings of one-run ball wasn’t enough, even though he didn’t walk anybody for the first time this year and also had a season-high six strikeouts. No, that picture above sums up the game; a Joe Nathan throwing error with the runners on first and second taking off on a sacrifice bunt that Nathan fielded. It’s his 5th blown save of the season and second on this crucial road trip. Luckily, the White Sox lost so Minnesota is still a half game back in the AL Central standings.

It’s easily the most heartbreaking loss of the season.

 

Players that will be called up when rosters expand on Tuesday: Jose Mijares (RP), Bobby Korecky (RP), Philip Humber (SP), Matt Tolbert (IF), Matt Macri (3B), Jason Pridie (OF), and Ryan Jorgenson (C).

The Twins got the scoring started early, in the second inning with back-to-back doubles. Justin Morneau hit a liner off the left field wall and Jason Kubel followed with a drive to the gap in right-center to drive him in.

Also in that second inning, Denard Span got walked with the bases loaded for an RBI, and for what it’s worth I’m pretty positive that Carlos Gomez swung at would-be ball four with the bases loaded, when he popped out to the infield. Joe Mauer hit a very key two-run single that forced Oakland to make a move to their bullpen, knocking their starter out after just 1 and 2/3 innings.

Mauer would finish with a 5-for-6 night at the plate, scoring once and driving in four.

 

Kubel, Brendan Harris, Carlos Gomez, Alexi Casilla, and Morneau all had at least two hits. Morneau had four actually, two of them doubles, but he only drove in one. Casilla and Gomez each scored twice with one RBI and Harris had a run scored and an RBI.

 

Kevin Slowey pitched his heart out, allowing two runs through six innings of work. He allowed six hits and both of the runs came off a homer in the 4th inning. He struck out ten and walked one. I personally would’ve liked to see him go out for the 7th inning. He finished with 96 pitches but two of the outs he got in the 6th came via a strikeout, so I’m guessing he was still feeling pretty good.

 

Craig Breslow pitched amazing, not allowing a runner in the final three innings of the game. He struck out three and needed just 27 pitches en route to his first career save.

 

Tonight’s game is an “early” game, starting at 8:05 central time. Francisco Liriano will start for Minnesota. The key for Liriano will be to go deep into the game, something he hasn’t really been able to do since coming back to the team. Although by using just two pitchers yesterday, the bullpen should be plenty fresh.

Some notes from the Mariners series:

  • Minnesota was only able to win one game out of the three they played against one of the worst teams in baseball, and even that game almost got out of hand.
  • Joe Nathan had his fourth blown save of the year, but long-time Twin Eddie Guardado is back with the club. He pitched the 8th inning twice against Seattle, his first outing being spectacular while his second outing left a little to be desired. He nearly gave up the 2-run lead by giving up back-to-back doubles and then a single. If it weren’t for Denard Span‘s game-saving bullet to home plate to nab the runner, the lead would’ve been gone.
  • Glen Perkins picked up his 12th win of the season and is now 12-3 on the year with a 3.96 ERA. I honestly think that both he and Span will get at least one vote for ROY nominations. Span’s impact has been phenomenal, both as a leadoff hitter and a RF. And Perkins, despite his unspectacular ERA and WHIP numbers, continues to keep the Twins in the ballgame and that’s seen by his W-L record.
  • A 4-game series against Oakland, the worst team since the All-Star Break, is next on the schedule. It’s very vital that Minnesota takes at least 3 out of the 4 games. I’m continually amazed at how this team can split a series with the Angels, the team with the second-best record in all of baseball, and then lose two of three to virtually the worst team in baseball.
  • The A’s will be sending four consecutive lefties to the mound against us, while we have Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, Francisco Liriano, and Scott Baker, in that order, trying to give us a win. Game times are (Central) 9:05, 9:05, 8:05, and 3:05. I don’t quite know why they can’t just start right on the hour.

First, my notes from Tuesday’s 13-2 shellacking:

  • I had a general idea that Denard Span was fast, but watching him run full speed in person changed my mind into thinking that he’s actually really, really fast. I’m referring to the play in which he didn’t catch a foul ball (it landed out of play) but he ran all the way to the foul fence in right field and even leapt in the air a bit to try and catch it. Seeing him leg out his 5th triple of the year helped me realize his speed, too.

 

  • Kevin Slowey did an outstanding job, lasting seven innings and allowing just two runs on five hits. He clearly kept Oakland off balance by striking out what I believe to be a career-high twelve batters.

 

  • Brian Buscher got things started early for the Twins by jacking a two-run homer, his fourth of the year, in the 2nd inning. It gave Minnesota a lead after Slowey allowed a run in the top of the 2nd.

 

  • The bottom of the order did most of the damage, with eleven of the team’s thirteen RBI coming from the 6-7-8-9 hitters, capped by Buscher’s five. Carlos Gomez launched a two-run homer, his sixth of the season, and Brendan Harris and Randy Ruiz each collected two hits with two RBI.

 

Onto yesterday’s untelevised, afternoon game. Francisco Liriano didn’t pitch as well as Slowey did, unless you want to get super-technical and say Liriano was near-perfect in that he didn’t allow an earned run through five innings.

 

Mike Redmond was the offensive star, with two RBI singles. Justin Morneau also drove in his 98th run of the year.

 

Most importantly, Alexi Casilla has been activated from the disabled list with Brian Bass being shown to the door. It’s. About. Time. He’s not a ML-caliber pitcher, but the good ol’ Twins sure gave him enough chances to try and prove it.

 

Tonight is the start of a crucial road trip, starting off with the red-hot Angels. Game starts at 9:05 and Scott Baker will start for Minnesota.

Francisco Liriano turned in what was easily his best outing of the year, not that it was hard to do when you take into consideration the starts he’s had so far. Franchise lasted seven innings and allowed just two hits, a double and a single. He walked two and struck out five and was only in trouble once, in the fourth. In the first three batters he recorded two outs and allowed the double, but then he walked the next batters to load the bases with two outs. The ball was hit towards Brian Buscher, who had his glove all the way on the ground, but had the ball bounce up above his glove but still under his legs and it skipped into the left field corner, allowing two (unearned) runs to score. Francisco threw a total of 98 pitches (30 coming in his troubling 4th inning), 59 of them for strikes.

 

Offensively, the seven-run 4th inning definitely put the Mariners out of reach. The inning was capped by Jason Kubel, who had a two-run homer and an RBI single in the inning.

 

Every batter except Justin Morneau and Carlos Gomez got hits, and even Morneau scored a run and had an RBI.

 

Denard Span and Nick Punto were nearly identical at the plate. Both had two hits (with one of those being a double) and two runs scored, the only difference being Span’s lone RBI compared to Punto’s two.

 

Carlos Silva looked like the lazy, overrated pitcher we’re all used to. He was only able to go 3 and 1/3 innings, allowing nine hits and nine runs. He walked one and didn’t have any strike outs, all the while seeing his season ERA balloon up to 6.36. It’s surprising to see that he actually has ten quality starts in 25 total starts this season. His entire month of April, going 3-0 with a 2.79 ERA. His monthly ERAs since then have been: 11.00, 4.99, 7.03, and it’s currently 9.56 for the month of August. In short, Seattle looks incredibly foolish for handing him $48 million for four years of work. Honestly, think of an easier way to make that much money, than to flat out suck at what you do for a living. Because that is what Carlos Silva does.

 

Also, the White Sox lost last night, leaving the Twins in a tie for first place.

 

Scott Baker tries for his 8th win in today’s game, which starts at 2:55.

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