Starting staff has rough road trip

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 7, 2011 - 11:47 PM
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Twins lefthander Francisco Liriano lasted five innings in his second start of the season Thursday.

Photo: Christopher Pasatieri, Mct - Mct

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NEW YORK - Why did the Twins go 2-4 on their first road trip? Much of it came down to starting pitching.

The Twins didn't have a single quality start, which requires at least six innings pitched and three or fewer earned runs allowed. Meanwhile, their opponents were 5-for-6 in quality starts.

The opposing pitchers were good, but much of that falls on the Twins hitters, too.

On Thursday, they had a chance to win their first series in the Bronx since May 2001, with Francisco Liriano opposing the Yankees' A.J. Burnett.

The Yankees used a three-run fourth inning to defeat the Twins 4-3.

Liriano (0-2) used 97 pitches over five innings, giving up four runs on four hits and three walks.

"I think Frankie just falls in love with that slider too much," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's got a great sinker and a great changeup, and when he's using those two pitches, everything goes along pretty good. But you misfire a little bit and have 100 pitches in five innings."

Liriano lasted only four innings in his previous start, a 6-1 loss at Toronto. He said his arm "feels great."

"Sometimes I just overthrow," he said, "trying to be too fine, too perfect and just rush, trying to overdo things."

Not hitting enough

The hitters haven't exactly been thriving either. The team batted .201 on the road trip and averaged 3.17 runs per game.

Justin Morneau, Jim Thome and Jason Kubel doubled off Burnett in the fourth inning, giving the Twins a 2-1 lead, but the Yankees regained the lead for good that inning.

Burnett (2-0) held the Twins to two runs over six innings. They scored an unearned run off Joba Chamberlain in the seventh, but Rafael Soriano pitched the eighth, and Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth for his fourth save.

"We had opportunities," Gardenhire said. 'We hit a couple balls pretty long but not out [of the park]. No excuses. I like the way the guys are playing. They're getting into it. They're getting after the game pretty hard."

Mauer to catch

Gardenhire made a point of telling the media that Joe Mauer will catch Friday's home opener.

"[Carl] Pavano's pitching, and normally [Drew] Butera is his catcher, but since it's Opening Day at home, I'll try not to get us all booed. They might boo me anyway, but if I catch Mauer, that's one spot I won't get booed."

Mauer went 2-for-4 Thursday, capping a 4-for-18 (.222) road trip.

Etc.

• The Twins scheduled Saturday's game at 6:10 p.m., so that if Friday's home opener gets postponed it could be played Saturday afternoon, as part of a split doubleheader.

• Kubel led the team's hitters on the trip by going 7-for-21 (.333). Denard Span was 7-for-23 (.304) with three walks, giving him a team-best .478 on-base percentage.

• Danny Valencia went 2-for-20 on the trip but lined out to shortstop (against Chamberlain) and flied to the left field warning track (against Rivera) in his final two at-bats.

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