Liriano helps Twins prep for key series
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Minnesota watched the Tampa Bay Rays celebrate clinching their first playoff berth Saturday.
One day later, the Twins picked up some much-needed momentum heading into a key showdown as Francisco Liriano allowed one run over seven innings to lead the visitors to a 4-1 victory.
The Twins remained 2 1/2 games behind AL Central-leading Chicago, which beat Kansas City, 3-0. After an off day, they open a three-game series tomorrow in Minnesota.
"It's our home," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They're the one with the lead and who we have to catch. It's our ballpark and we normally play well there. We just have to prove it."
Liriano is 6-0 in 10 starts since rejoining the team from Triple-A Rochester last month. Minnesota, which got a total of just 6 1/3 innings from its starters during the first three games of the series, split the four-game set with the Rays, who clinched at least a wild-card berth Saturday.
"[Liriano] stepped up for us big time," Gardenhire said. "It was on his shoulders to get us deep in the ballgame and he did that."
Liriano (6-3) rebounded from a rough start last Tuesday when the lefthander gave up eight runs over 2 2/3 innings in the Twins' 12-9 loss to Cleveland.
"That's the story of the game . . . Liriano beat us," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I don't think [we were] sluggish. I think the game was dictated by pitching on both sides."
Liriano scattered five hits, helping Minnesota complete a long road trip with a 4-6 record.
"From my last start, I tried not to rush and just picked my spots," said Liriano, who struck out seven and walked four. "When you throw the slider, they're going to swing at pitches out of the zone. That's what that pitch is for."
Tampa Bay, which closes the regular season with an eight-game road trip (four games each in Baltimore and Detroit), rested several starters, including shortstop Jason Bartlett, second baseman Akinori Iwamura, and catcher Dioner Navarro.
Mike Redmond hit an RBI single, Adam Everett had a run-scoring infield single, and Carlos Gomez drove in a run with a bunt single during a four-run fourth that put Minnesota ahead, 4-1.
Jose Mijares pitched a perfect eighth and Joe Nathan got the final three outs for his 38th save.