Liriano tough as his luck

  • Article by: LA VELLE E. NEAL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 19, 2012 - 5:23 AM

As trade rumors continued to swirl and scouts watched, the Twins lefthander pitched well, getting 10 strikeouts, but ended up on the losing end again.

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Francisco Liriano's past 10 starts have been reminders of what he once was and, perhaps, a hint of what he's about to become.

His past two outings -- during which he has struck out 25 batters -- have been flashbacks to the days when teammates called him "Franchise" and hitters looked inferior against his arsenal of pitches.

And he has little to show for those two starts.

Liriano gave up a two-run homer to the third batter he faced Wednesday, and that blast held up as Baltimore edged the Twins 2-1 at Target Field. Orioles righthander Tommy Hunter held the Twins to a solo home run by Josh Willingham as he went 7 1/3 innings for the victory.

Liriano, 3-9, was a little off Wednesday, getting removed from the game after six innings and 100 pitches. But the Twins offense let him down again, leaving the bases loaded in the eighth and wasting a leadoff single in the ninth.

"Just didn't cash in," acting manager Scott Ullger said. "They made some good pitches against us."

Ullger filled in for manager Ron Gardenhire, who left the game in the middle innings because of a stomach virus and went home to recover. He is expected to be back at Target Field on Thursday.

The only ones who could really enjoy Liriano's outing were the scouts in attendance whose teams are looking for pitching before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline.

Liriano, in the middle of a run of dominance, tries not to think about the possibility of being traded.

"I haven't even called my agent to ask him about it," Liriano said. "Like I say, I don't want to think about it too much. Just happy to be here and whatever happens happens."

In his past 10 starts, Liriano has posted an excellent 2.84 ERA and has struck out 77 batters in 63 1/3 innings, but he's only 3-4 during that run. The Twins haven't supplied enough offense, and Liriano has been stung by one or two mistakes.

On Friday, Liriano lost 6-3 to Oakland when Jonny Gomes hit a grand slam that gave the Athletics the lead for good. It ruined Liriano's 15-strikeout performance, one in which he tied for the second-most strikeouts in a game in Twins history.

On Wednesday, he tried to get ahead in the count with his fastball early in the game. His fastball hit 91 to 92 miles per hour on the radar gun. Adam Jones hit a two-run homer off a 90-mph fastball in the first inning that stood as the winning hit.

The next inning, Liriano stopped trying to take something off his fastball and hit 94 on the gun.

"I was like, 'Let's go,'" Liriano said.

What the Twins didn't know at the time was that they were going to have such a tough time against Hunter, who improved to 4-4.

"We have to give him run support," Twins outfielder Ben Revere said of Liriano. "Against Oakland they got a grand slam and we lost by a couple runs. Tonight we lose by one run. We know if we give him at least four, five runs he is going to take us home. Down the road, when he's on the mound, we have to help him out a little bit."

  • BALTIMORE 2, TWINS 1,

    Up next: 12:10 p.m. today vs. Baltimore • Target Field • TV: FSN (1500-AM)

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