MINNEAPOLIS — Twins starter Francisco Liriano clearly did not have his best stuff on Sunday, and he could not find a way to battle through it.
Liriano was all over the place, walking four batters and throwing two wild pitches, as he lasted just 2 1/3 innings in giving up four earned runs on six hits in the Twins’ 5-2 loss to the Tigers.
“We were trying to get [Liriano] to just throw his fastball over the plate, and he really couldn’t find anything,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “He was spinning off the ball. Hopefully, there will be better days ahead for him.”
The loss knocked the Twins back to seven games under .500 and seven games behind the first-place Tigers.
Coming into this 11-day homestand, the Twins had an opportunity to gain some ground on the leaders in the American League Central, with eight of their 12 games coming against the Indians and the Tigers.
“This homestand is not like earth-shattering or anything like that,” Michael Cuddyer said. “We’ve just got to go out and figure out a way to win on the road, starting tomorrow.”
For an inning, Liriano’s performance could have been labeled “effectively wild,” as he stranded two runners in the first without giving up a run. But in the second, the wildness caught up with him, as he spiked two sliders in the dirt.
The first wild pitch allowed Ryan Raburn to advance to second base, and the second bounced out of play, scoring Raburn from third.
“The day started off pretty good in the bullpen,” catcher Joe Mauer said. “Obviously, a little different once we got out there. I tried my best to try to settle him down a little bit. You know how hard he wants to give a good performance for the team, and we just weren’t able to get it done today.”
Liriano’s control continued to elude him in the third inning, and the Tigers consistly worked deep in the count before putting together four consecutive one-out singles to score three runs.
“We were fortunate Liriano didn’t have his command and got his pitches count up,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “I thought we did a really good job with him today, being patient.”
Despite notching just seven outs, Liriano threw 78 pitches, 43 for strikes, though just 29 of Liriano’s pitches were actually in the strike zone, according to PitchFX data.
“He’s just trying to do too much with it,” Mauer said. “I think when Frankie gets into trouble, he overthrows a little bit. When he’s nice and relaxed, I keep telling him, his ball moves a lot.
“I know he was frustrated with it, and we’re frustrated with the loss.”
In his previous outing, Liriano had control issues as well, but managed to get through six innings against the Indians with only one run allowed on four hits. He did walk four, hit a batter and throw a wild pitch, though, in that outing.
Liriano now has eight wild pitches on the season, tying him for fifth in the American League.
“He didn’t throw the ball over, it didn’t matter who was up there,” Gardenhire said. “The ball just was not going over the plate. I think at one point he threw a couple of strikes in a row, but I don’t think there were too many times that he did that. That’s a rough outing.”
Gardenhire was forced to call on his bullpen in the third inning, asking relievers to cover 6 2/3 innings, despite having already been overworked on the homestand. They performed as well as could have been expected, giving up just one run on one hit.
Anthony Swarzak allowed a run over 3 1/3 innings, while Chuck James tossed 1 1/3 scoreless frames. Alex Burnett and Matt Capps also tossed scoreless innings to close it out.
Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello effectively shut down the Twins’ offense for six innings, allowing just two runs on five hits with four strikeouts and a pair of walks. Both Twins runs came in the fourth inning, on an RBI groundout by Jim Thome and Delmon Young’s RBI double to left.
The Twins will not have much time to muse over the disappointing loss, as they head to Texas to begin an 10-game road trip against the American League West.
“It would’ve been nice to get a few more wins here at home, but we’ve still got a lot of games to go,” Mauer said. “We’ve got to play better.”
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Twins happy to see Blyleven honored
By Jordan Schelling / MLB.com
Blyleven, who had his No. 28 retired by the Twins eight days earlier at Target Field, has been in Cooperstown since Wednesday for various Hall of Fame activities. On Sunday, the day finally came for Blyleven — along with Roberto Alomar and Pat Gillick — to be honored at the Hall of Fame.
“It should be really cool,” lefty reliever Glen Perkins, a Minnesota native, said prior to the ceremony. “I remember when [Kirby] Puckett went in and [Paul] Molitor went in. Those were guys that I watched go in, and I never really knew Kirby, but I’ve known Paul pretty well for a while.
“I know Bert as well as I know Paul, so it’s going to be cool to watch him give that speech and see him at the Hall of Fame there. I’m looking forward to watching it.”
The Twins showed Blyleven’s speech on the video board for fans attending Sunday’s game, while Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and the players planned to watch it on TV in the clubhouse.
“I wish that we could be there to enjoy it with him,” Michael Cuddyer said. “But it’s been a long time coming, and he deserves it as much as anybody does.”
Given Blyleven’s 16-year career as a Twins broadcaster and his knack for keeping things interesting on the air, his speech is expected to be a good one.
“I can’t wait to listen; it ought to be really entertaining, knowing all the stories that he has,” Gardenhire said Sunday morning. “There’s got to be something good in there. I’d like to listen to it in here; I’m interested in what he has to say. It’ll be fun stories, knowing Bert.”
Baker feeling fine after first start off DL
MINNEAPOLIS — While he had no issues throwing 82 pitches in five innings on Saturday night, the important thing for Twins right-hander Scott Baker was how he felt the next day.
Before Sunday’s series finale with the Tigers, Baker said he felt great.
“I kind of had an idea that I was going to feel OK, because once I was done, I just felt like I got a good workout,” Baker said. “As far as a hurting type of soreness, I don’t have anything like that. I haven’t played catch yet, but I feel like everything should be fine.”
In making his first start since July 5, Baker went in with a limit of 75-80 pitches. After finishing the fourth with 72 pitches, Baker went back out for the fifth and tossed 10 more before leaving the game, having allowed just three hits.
Baker said he expected to be able to increase his pitch count in his next outing.
“I’ll leave that up to them,” Baker said. “But I’d like at least get to the 100-pitch mark next time.”
Span plays back-to-back rehab games
MINNEAPOLIS — Center fielder Denard Span played seven innings for Triple-A Rochester in a rehab game on Sunday after also playing seven innings on Saturday.
Span went 0-for-4 on Sunday in the Red Wings’ 3-0 loss. Through six rehab games, after being on the shelf since early June with a concussion, Span has three hits in 20 at-bats with Rochester. All three hits were singles, and Span has also stolen a base.
“Everything seems to be going along just fine,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who watched Denard play on Saturday night. “He’s feeling good.”
While a return to the Twins seems likely to come soon for Span, it will not happen until he plays full games in center field on consecutive nights. Gardenhire has also talked recently about getting Span going at the plate before his return.
“He’s still playing seven innings,” Gardenhire said. “The talk is trying to get him to where [he’s] playing nine innings, probably four or five days in a row. Then we’ll see where we’re at. He’s getting close to being able to do that.”
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
MINNEAPOLIS — After watching his teammates drop the first two games of the series, right-hander Scott Baker wanted to do all he could on Saturday to help the Twins get a win. The only thing standing in his way was a 75-80 pitch limit.
Baker squeezed a solid five innings out of his 82 pitches, and the Twins managed, with the help of four relievers, to secure a 4-1 victory over the Tigers at Target Field. With the win, the Twins pulled to within six games of the first-place Tigers.
The Twins will now have an opportunity with a win on Sunday to get back to where they were when the series began, sitting five games back in the American League Central.
“They’re obviously in front of us, and they’re one of the teams that we have to beat,” Baker said. “We’re headed in the right direction. We can compete with those guys, we know that.”
The Twins would have liked to have gotten more than five innings from Baker, but Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was happy to get the win.
“Honestly, we started getting a guy up in the fourth, at one point,” Gardenhire said. “We just didn’t want him to extend out too awful much. We’re still trying to feel our way through and see how he’s doing.”
After finishing the fourth inning with 72 pitches, Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson asked Baker how he was feeling.
Baker told them he could go another inning, and he got out of the fifth having faced just three batters.
“Today, given the situation, even with the pitch count, I didn’t want to give in to these guys,” Baker said. “They’re a good hitting lineup, and whether I threw three innings or five innings or six innings or whatever, I didn’t want to throw it over the plate and allow them to get something going.”
Thanks to Baker’s outing and a solid offensive performance, the Twins beat the Tigers for the first time since Sept. 1, 2010, snapping an 11-game losing streak against their AL Central rivals.
Baker blanked Detroit on three hits and a walk in his first start since July 5, a game which left with right elbow soreness. After giving up a pair of singles in the first, Baker cruised through the fifth, facing just one over the minimum with five strikeouts.
“[Baker] is very good at getting you out on high fastballs,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. “He’s got late life to it, he’s sneaky on top and he gets you to chase the ball just out of the strike zone. We were probably a little over-aggressive. He pitched a very good game coming back.”
But with Baker only going five innings, it marked the fifth consecutive game in which the bullpen was needed for three innings or more.
Anthony Swarzak, Phil Dumatrait, Glen Perkins and Joe Nathan combined to finish out the last four innings, allowing one run on four hits and a walk. Nathan pitched the ninth for his seventh save, moving him within one save of tying Rick Aguilera for the Twins’ all-time saves record.
“Swarzy came in and did what he had to do; that’s a tough lineup over there with a lot of veteran hitters who shoot the ball all over the place,” Gardenhire said. “Duma came in and got the first-pitch double-play ball, which was huge in that inning, and got through it.
“You give the ball to Perk, and what can you say? He got in a little jam there, but goodness, he’s throwing the ball so well. Then Nathan finishes it off.”
First baseman Miguel Cabrera drove in the Tigers’ only run with a double in the sixth off Swarzak, scoring Brennan Boesch from second.
Through the first two games of the series, the Twins’ offense had been shut down by Tigers right-handers Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, but they finally put some hits together against Brad Penny.
Penny went seven innings, giving up four runs on seven hits with three walks and four strikeouts.
Michael Cuddyer drove in Ben Revere with a single in the first, and Danny Valencia led off the second inning with his 12th home run, a shot into the second deck in left field. The Twins then added two more in the fourth, as Delmon Young drove in Jason Kubel and Valencia with a double to the gap in right.
“These are games where we can catch back up, so we really needed to come out and win today, so we have a chance tomorrow [to] come out and win and be five back,” Young said. “You don’t want to get back down to nine or anything and try to make it up in the second half. You still want to get to Sept. 1 to have a chance to make a run for it.”
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Nishioka showing improvement at short
MINNEAPOLIS — Twins shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka is still struggling at the plate, and he has had particular trouble against pitchers with good off-speed stuff.
Nishioka had begun to look more comfortable, but over the past eight games, he’s batted just .154, picking up four hits in 26 at-bats. He also has two RBIs and six strikeouts over that span.
In the first two games against the Tigers, Nishioka went 0-for-6 with three strikeouts.
“You look at the two pitchers we faced, both of them were throwing 96 [mph], with changeups and curveballs,” Gardenhire said, referring to right-handers Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. “That’s two really good performances against us.”
Gardenhire also noted that Nishioka likely could use a day off, as he’s been in the lineup for all but one game since June 16.
While Nishioka’s offense still has plenty of room for improvement, his defense has improved significantly of late compared to how he looked in his first few games at shortstop. Nishioka has made five errors in 143 chances at short, but his range, arm and confidence have all looked much better in July than they did in June.
“He’s gotten a lot better,” Gardenhire said. “He’s starting to trust his hands, his backhand and all those things. He’s seeing the ball into his glove a lot more and not rushing it. … He’s starting to understand people and how they run.”
Numbers game leaves Hughes odd man out
MINNEAPOLIS — When infielder Luke Hughes learned he had been optioned to Triple-A Rochester after Friday’s 8-2 loss to the Tigers, he was noticeably disappointed while sitting at his locker.
Sending Hughes down was an unexpected move, but one the Twins felt was necessary to keep an extra pitcher on the roster after they activated right-hander Scott Baker.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he, too, was disappointed about the move.
“Yes, I was,” Gardenhire said. “I didn’t want to have to do that. But with a couple short performances in a row and however many games we’ve got going here, we’ve got to keep another pitcher, especially with Baker going today.”
Hughes had seen his playing time decrease significantly lately, with Michael Cuddyer, Joe Mauer and Trevor Plouffe getting most of the starts as first base for the Twins. But Hughes was at one time the Twins’ everyday first baseman, when Justin Morneau went on the disabled list with a wrist injury.
Gardenhire has been forced to go to his bullpen quite a bit lately, with Chuck James, Jose Mijares and Alex Burnett all throwing more than 30 pitches in their most recent outings.
With no off-days until August 1, the Twins are not likely to send a pitcher down soon.
“I don’t see how you could go to Texas without having plenty of pitching,” Gardenhire said. “My only concern there is the heat for the position players. It’s supposed to be 100 degrees every day down there; that’s my concern.”
As Gardenhire mentioned earlier in the homestand, Hughes would have been the Twins’ third catcher, if needed. With him gone, who would fill that role?
“Whoever’s left on the bench,” Gardenhire said. “It’d probably be Plouffey. Good luck.”
Rest for Revere not in cards right away
MINNEAPOLIS — Since June 2, center fielder Ben Revere has been in the Twins’ lineup on a daily basis.
Over the first 25 games, Revere batted .294 with four doubles, nine RBIs and 14 runs scored. He also stole seven bases in 10 attempts.
In his past 20 games, though, he’s hit at just a .202 clip with a triple, three walks, five RBIs and eight strikeouts. Revere has stolen four bases in six attempts this month. Things have been even worse over the past six games, as Revere has gone 1-for-25 with two strikeouts.
“The heat’s been unbelievable, he’s playing every day and I think he needs a break,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “He probably could use a day or so, but right now, this is not the time. I need him at the top of the lineup. I would love to give him a break.”
Two of them grew up in St. Paul, the other is one of the greatest Twins of all time. All three — Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield and Rod Carew — were inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
What more could a Twins fan ask for when building their very own dream team?
Molitor, who went to Cretin-Durham Hall High School as well as the University of Minnesota, played the majority of his career with the Milwaukee Brewers before spending three years with the Toronto Blue Jays and the final three with the Twins.
In his first season with Minnesota, Molitor collected his 3,000th career hit, and he remains a special assistant to the general manager for the Twins.
Winfield, who attended Central High School in St. Paul and the University of Minnesota, split the majority of his career between the San Diego Padres and New York Yankees. Near the end of his career, Winfield spent two seasons with the Twins.
Like Molitor, Winfield also collected his 3,000th career hit with the Twins, three years earlier to the day.
Carew spent the first 12 years of his career in Minnesota, earning American League Rookie of the Year honors in 1967 and winning the 1977 AL MVP Award. Carew picked up his 3,000th hit against the Twins in the final year of his career with the Angels, and was the second Twins player to have his number retired.
All three players could be part of a dream team that could square off against you and 10 of your closest friends as they represent the Twins in a once-in-a-lifetime contest.
From now through Aug. 31, vote up to 25 times a day for your favorite living legends and help create the Pepsi MAX Field of Dreams Team. All-time greats have been nominated at each position, from catcher to reliever. For each ballot cast, you will be entered to win the chance to take on the winning Pepsi MAX Field of Dreams Team with 10 of your friends on your home turf next spring, surrounded by family, fans and media.
Between the three of them, Molitor, Winfield and Carew have 37 All-Star Game appearances, two World Series titles, 10 Silver Slugger awards, an MVP Award and a World Series MVP. In addition to the Twins retiring Carew’s number, he also had his No. 29 retired by the Angels, while Molitor’s No. 4 was retired by the Brewers and Winfield’s No. 31 by the Padres.
Each of the three was a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection, with Carew entering in 1991, Winfield in 2001 and Molitor in ’04.
Carew won seven AL batting titles with the Twins, while also leading the league in hits three times. Molitor also led the league in hits three times and in runs three times as well. Winfield was known more for his power than the other two, finishing with 465 career home runs and 1,833 RBIs, which rank him 31st and 17th, respectively, on the all-time lists.
During his MVP season of 1977, Carew batted .388, which was the highest since Ted Williams hit .406 in ’41 for the Red Sox.
Molitor is one of just four players with at least 3,000 hits, a .300 career batting average, and 500 stolen bases. Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and Eddie Collins are the other three to have accomplished the same feat. Molitor is the only one of the four to also hit 200 career home runs.
Winfield was a two-sport star in college, playing both baseball and basketball for the Gophers. He was the fourth overall pick by the Padres in the 1973 Draft, and also was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks, Utah Stars (ABA) and Minnesota Vikings before choosing baseball.
These three former Twins may not be as fast or as strong as they once were, but fans could have the opportunity to see these three Twins greats play together for the first time.
So, what are you waiting for? Cast your ballots for these legends now, and you could end up playing against them in your own backyard.
MINNEAPOLIS — Since getting a day off, Jhonny Peralta has been crushing the ball over the last two nights against the Twins. Following a 3-for-4 performance on Thursday night, Peralta added three more hits on Friday night in the Tigers’ 8-2 victory at Target Field.
For the second straight game, Peralta finished a triple shy of hitting for the cycle. He belted a solo homer in the second, drove in two runs with a third-inning single and doubled home another run in the fifth.
The home run was his 16th of the season, and the four RBIs boosted his season total to 58.
“He’s in the midst of a real good year,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. “He’s really been a perfect fit for us in that area, sandwiched in between Victor and Carlos. He’s absolutely been tremendous.
“I think what he’s done so far this year is he’s capitalized on mistakes. When they’ve made mistakes, he hasn’t missed them very often.”
In 12 career games at Target Field, Peralta is batting .432 (19-for-44) with eight runs, two doubles, five homers and 15 RBIs, including seven RBIs over the last two nights. He has homered in each of his last five games in Minnesota.
Over his last 13 games against the Twins, Peralta has 21 RBIs, including 13 this season.
“He’s hot, is swinging good and is on the ball,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Right now, he’s about as locked in as we’ve seen him.”
With the win, the Tigers’ 11th straight over the Twins, they increased their lead in the American League Central to 1 1/2 games over the Indians, who lost on Friday to the White Sox.
With more than 60 games to go in the regular season, though, the Tigers still say that they aren’t paying much attention to the standings.
“At this point in the year, we’re concentrating on ourselves,” said Tigers starter Max Scherzer. “We know that we can win this division. We know that we’re good and we know we’ve got the talent. We just feel like if we go out there and compete every day and keep these winning streaks going, then we’re going to be the team on top.”
Every Tigers player had at least one hit on the night and five different players scored a run.
Left fielder Ryan Raburn went 2-for-4 on the night with a solo home run in the first and two runs scored. Magglio Ordonez also had two hits with a pair of runs scored, and Carlos Guillen drove in two with a single.
Detroit jumped all over Twins lefty Brian Duensing, who lasted just 4 2/3 innings. Duensing surrendered seven runs on nine hits, walking one and striking out seven. In two starts this year against the Tigers, Duensing is 0-1 with a 12.54 ERA, allowing 13 runs on 18 hits in 9 1/3 innings.
Duensing opened each of the first two innings with a strikeout, followed by a home run, followed by another strikeout. He struck out the side in the second to go along with a homer and a single, but big innings in the third and fifth did him in.
“Their whole lineup is stacked,” Duensing said. “They have the standard big guys in the middle of the lineup, but one through nine is pretty good and is producing right now. So that makes them even more dangerous.”
With the offense putting up plenty of runs to support him, Scherzer delivered an impressive outing, giving up just one run over seven innings of work. The right-hander struck out four batters while allowing just four hits and one walk.
Scherzer faced just four over the minimum in his seven frames, as he won for the 11th time this season. He allowed more than one baserunner only once, when the Twins had two singles and scored their only run of the game in the second inning.
Over his last three starts, Scherzer is 2-1 with a 1.66 ERA, allowing just four runs on 18 hits with one walk and 12 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings pitched.
“He really had a pretty comfortable seven innings,” Leyland said. “I thought he did a good job. He didn’t really tire at all, I didn’t think.”
Leyland addresses Thursday’s decisions
MINNEAPOLIS — After right-hander Justin Verlander gave up a leadoff triple on Thursday in the second inning, Tigers manager Jim Leyland played the infield back with Jim Thome at the plate. But following Thome’s strikeout, Leyland moved the infield in with one out.
Leyland discussed the thought process behind the two decisions before Friday’s game.
“Well, with no outs, you don’t want to open up a big inning,” Leyland said. “If you’re playing in and he hits a ball in the hole that you didn’t get, you still got a guy on first. You’ve got one out and you still got the double play in order.
“Over my career, I’ve seen too many infields back and a routine ground ball to the shortstop allows a guy to trot home.”
The strategy did not really end up mattering for Leyland and the Tigers, as Verlander struck out both Thome and Danny Valencia, setting up a ground out to end the inning with the runner stranded at third base.
But Leyland said that he generally likes to bring the infield in with one out and a runner on third.
“Unless you’re worried about a big inning, I play them in all the time,” Leyland said. “If you got one out, I think you should be able to come out of it without a big inning.”
Leyland, Thome share jovial conversation
MINNEAPOLIS — Early on Friday afternoon, Tigers manager Jim Leyland sat out to enjoy a beautiful day at Target Field, which he called “gorgeous,” “beautiful” and a “tremendous” ballpark.
In the home dugout, Leyland spotted Jim Thome and struck up a conversation with the Twins’ slugger.
“I just happened to see him in their dugout, and I pointed to the that sign out there,” said Leyland, referring to the banner above center field that read ‘THOME 596,’ counting down his chase for 600 career home runs.
“I said, ‘I don’t want to see that go up while I’m here,’ kidding him,” Leyland said.
Thome didn’t really have a comeback for Leyland’s joke, but he said that he had a good time talking with Leyland.
“I didn’t really comment, you know?” Thome said. “What are you going to say? It was just all in fun and joking.”
With seven home runs on the year, Thome is within striking distance of becoming the eighth player in Major League history to reach the 600-home run plateau.
Leyland discussed with Thome how nice a ballpark Target Field is, and Thome pointed out to him that all five cities in the American League Central are great places to play.
Aside from the joke about Leyland not wanting to see Thome get any closer to 600 homers this weekend, neither discussed any specifics about their conversation. But both had plenty of good things to say about the other.
“Jimmy’s been around the game a long time,” Thome said. “He’s an old school manager that I think a lot of people have respect for. He’s always been very, very pleasant and very nice to me. Any time I’ve run across him, he’s always been very cordial, very polite. He’s just a good guy to talk to about baseball in general.”
Tigers manager recalls memories of Blyleven
MINNEAPOLIS — With former Twins right-hander Bert Blyleven set to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday in Cooperstown, he was a topic of discussion on Friday when Tigers manager Jim Leyland met with reporters.
Leyland recalled his first encounter with Blyleven in 1969, when both were in the Florida League, playing for the Tigers’ and Twins’ affiliates at the Class A level.
“He was in Orlando when I was at Lakeland,” Leyland said. “I hit against him.”
So the obvious next question was, how did Leyland fare against Blyleven in the early stages of what would eventually become a Hall of Fame pitching career?
“I was probably one of the first guys who sent him on his way to Cooperstown,” Leyland said. “And I can assure you one thing, he doesn’t remember what happened, because he had no clue who I was.”
Tigers sign Draft picks Westlake, Collier
MINNEAPOLIS — The Tigers announced on Friday that they had signed third round pick Aaron Westlake and 22nd round pick Tommy Collier.
With two more players signed from the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the Tigers have now agreed to terms with 28 of the club’s selections.
Westlake, a first baseman from Vanderbilt University, earned second team All-America honors from Baseball America after hitting .344 with 18 doubles, 18 home runs and 56 RBIs in 66 games this year for the Commodores.
Collier, a right-hander from San Jacinto College, was pitching with Bourne of the Cape Cod League this summer before he signed. In five starts, Collier compiled a 3-1 record with a 1.04 ERA, allowing three earned runs over 26 innings pitched with 26 strikeouts.