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Waiting game may have affected Liriano

June 12, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — On average, each half-inning on Sunday at Target Field lasted just under eight minutes. The bottom of the seventh took 29 minutes, 48 seconds.

Whether it played a part in breaking up Francisco Liriano’s no-hitter is up for debate, but it certainly didn’t seem to help.

“It didn’t bother me physically, but I started thinking too much about that no-hitter,” Liriano said after the Twins’ 6-1 win over the Rangers. “I tried to overthrow that inning and was trying to be too perfect. And I then [gave up] a hit when I got behind in the count.”

After an error by third baseman Luke Hughes broke up Liriano’s perfect game in the top of the seventh, the Twins lefty headed to the dugout needing six outs to complete his second no-hitter in 40 days.

Then the Twins’ offense came alive.

Leading off the seventh, Danny Valencia lined a single off the arm of Rangers starter Matt Harrison, knocking him out of the game. After the pitching change delayed the inning, reliever Mark Lowe was not quite as effective or efficient as Harrison had been.

As a result, Liriano sat in the dugout for nearly 30 minutes between pitches.

“It’s tough when you have one big long inning,” Valencia said. “It keeps him in, and it keeps him cooled off for a while. So I’m sure it’s frustrating, but no pitcher is obviously going to get mad about getting run support. At the same time, with what’s on the line for him from a personal standpoint, it’s probably something that’s not ideal in that situation.”

Lowe got Jason Repko to ground out, but an error on shortstop Elvis Andrus put Rene Rivera on first and brought Valencia home from second. Two batters later, Ben Revere struck out, but reached first on a wild pitch.

Alexi Casilla followed with a single to drive in Rivera, and Michael Cuddyer drove a three-run blast into the seats in right, putting the Twins up, 6-1, over the Rangers.

As the rally kept building, did the thought of getting Liriano back on the mound cross Cuddyer’s mind?

“[Heck] no. No, you score as many runs as you can, especially against a team like that,” Cuddyer said. “First and foremost you want to win. Obviously everyone wanted to see a no-hitter, everybody wanted to have that happen, but bottom line is, you want to win the game.”

After Cuddyer’s home run, the Twins kept hitting, though they did not plate anymore runs. Delmon Young and Hughes followed with singles before Valencia finally flied out to center field to get Liriano back on the mound.

When he got back out there, Liriano got to 3-0 on Adrian Beltre before giving up a single. A wild pitch and another single two batters later plated the Rangers’ only run.

“It’s almost like a rain delay there when you’re at 70-something pitches and you have to sit out for 30 minutes,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “We kept telling him he had to get up and move around. And not only did he have 70 pitches, he had a no-hitter, too.

“So we told him to move around, because it was a long inning. So we were worried when he went out there. His first few warmup pitches weren’t pretty. And his first few pitches were rushed out there.”

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 buried by early struggles against Rangers

June 10, 2011 Comments off

MINNEAPOLIS — In the clubhouse, Brian Duensing sat facing his locker with his head down. After yet another tough outing and a 9-3 loss to the Rangers on Friday night, the Twins’ lefty was not in a hurry to talk about it.

When he did, Duensing was asked if it was the most frustrated he had been after a start this season.

“I’ve had so many,” Duensing said. “Yeah. This is real frustrating. The baseball team, we’re playing well now. To go out and basically not give us a chance right away is very frustrating. I don’t know, I’ve got to find a way to get it done. I’m not getting it done right now, and I know that.”

It was a cold, rainy night at Target Field, and sloppy playing conditions were accompanied by a sloppy second inning that was too much for the Twins to overcome. Bad weather is nothing new for Duensing.

After a strong first month of the season, Duensing’s struggles started May 7, when he had his start cut short after two innings due to a rain delay. He gave up just one run on three hits, but took the loss as the Twins were shut out, 4-0.

Three days later, Duensing pitched two innings in relief of Francisco Liriano after a 64-minute hail delay. Duensing allowed two runs on three hits as the Twins lost, 10-2. Things really got bad in his next four starts, though.

Over 20 2/3 innings of work, Duensing allowed 21 runs on 28 hits, going 0-3 with a 9.15 ERA in his last four May starts. He finally appeared to have turned the corner in his last start, tossing eight scoreless innings against the Royals.

“Last outing was good, I felt confident, threw everything for a strike, every pitch was sharp,” Duensing said. “Then I came out today and didn’t have it at all, it was the complete opposite. It’s frustrating.”

As the rain started to come down in the top of the second, the Rangers started to pile up runs. Duensing surrendered six hits in the inning, which led to seven runs, three of which were earned.

After opening the inning with a walk and a strikeout, Duensing gave up a single to Mike Napoli that was followed by a Jason Repko error in center field that plated the first run of the game. Another single scored the second run before an Alexi Casilla error allowed another runner to reach base.

“Tonight it was just, here he is out there in another mess, trying to pitch through it,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I don’t want to make excuses for him, [but] the mound was terrible, the ball was up. Their guy was going through the same thing, we just couldn’t put any hits together on him.”

Duensing then surrendered another pair of singles, struck out Josh Hamilton and gave up a single and double before getting out of the inning with a flyout. Over his last six starts, even including the brilliant outing in Kansas City, Duensing has gone 1-4 with a 7.04 ERA.

Gardenhire replaced Duensing after two innings, bringing in right-hander Anthony Swarzak. In six innings of relief, Swarzak gave up two runs on six hits.

Swarzak tossed 101 pitches, providing a bright spot for the Twins on the night as he saved Gardenhire from having to use up the bullpen.

“That’s a phenomenal lineup over there,” Swarzak said. “You have Hamilton, Cruz, you can go top to bottom with that lineup. They can get to about anything near the plate. So you just try to go in effectively and pitch out when you need to and throw some offspeed out there and hope for the best.”

Rangers lefty C.J. Wilson was effective against the Twins, allowing just three runs on eight hits over seven innings.

After battling through the same tough conditions, Wilson sympathized with Duensing’s tough night.

“That was rough,” Wilson said. “I’m sure he’s a good dude. I hope he has some good karma against the rest of the AL West. It was like the Twilight Zone. Guys were falling over trying to catch the ball. It was like the Bad News Bears on both sides.”

Michael Cuddyer swung the bat well, driving in Drew Butera with a single in the fifth, while also collecting a double and a pair of walks.

But it was the bottom of the order did most of the damage for Minnesota, as Repko doubled and scored in the second on a Matt Tolbert single, and Butera went 3-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a run scored. Three hits marked a career high for Butera.

“It was nice,” Butera said. “I wish we could’ve won. It’s never fun to lose. It’s nice to get the hits but it’s better to go 0-for and get the win.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Brewers beat 6/11

June 11, 2010 Comments off

Burdette joins Miller Park Walk of Fame

MILWAUKEE — As the Brewers honored the late Lew Burdette on Friday, the former Milwaukee Braves pitcher became the newest member of the Miller Park Walk of Fame.

Burdette, who pitched for the Braves from 1953-63, was a key member of the 1957 World Series champion team, and he becomes the fourth former Braves player inducted since they were added to the ballot in 2007.

He joins fellow Braves greats Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn and John Quinn as inductees in the Walk of Fame. As Burdette’s daughters reminisced about him, Spahn’s name came up quite a bit, as the two were close friends.

Of course, there weren’t many people with whom Burdette was not friendly.

“We grew up just so honored to have him because not only was he a wonderful ballplayer, he taught me a lot about how to be a great friend. Dad never knew a stranger,” Mary Lou Burdette-Wieloszynski said. “He also was very gracious to his fans and gave autographs out freely.

“Whenever he talked about Milwaukee, he talked about how wonderful the fans were in Milwaukee, and he liked them so much and said that they were good people. … He and Warren, he said they loved it because they were treated like a real person.”

Brewers members of the Walk of Fame are Hank Aaron, Rollie Fingers, Paul Molitor, Robin Yount, Commissioner Bud Selig, Cecil Cooper, Bob Uecker, Harry Dalton, Jim Gantner, Gorman Thomas, Don Money and Harvey Kuenn.

With Burdette being honored by the Brewers, his daughters — Burdette-Wieloszynski, Elaina Fontana and Madge Burdette — were in attendance Friday for the club’s series opener against the Rangers.

At a pregame news conference, they were excited for their father’s honor.

During the 1957 World Series, Burdette went 3-0 with a 0.67 ERA, allowing just two earned runs over 27 innings pitched, en route to earning MVP honors.

“We’re just really proud of our dad and very honored to be here,” Fontana said. “We’ve just had a wonderful experience growing up with our dad.”

Overall, Burdette went 173-109 with Milwaukee with a 3.53 ERA in 420 games. In 1959, he led the National League with 21 wins, and in 1956 his 2.70 ERA also led the league.

Burdette’s oldest daughter hoped to make her father proud as she threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

“I hope I can throw that ball, and it’s not in the dirt,” Madge Burdette said, “and make him smile from heaven. I know he’s watching us. I’m just proud to be here.”

Patience helped Gomez score winning run

MILWAUKEE — Center fielder Carlos Gomez used his speed to the win the game for the Brewers, 5-4 in the 10th inning, on Thursday afternoon, but it was patience at the plate that gave him the chance.

Gomez drew just his seventh walk of the season as he watched four straight balls from Cubs reliever Bob Howry. Manager Ken Macha said patience is something that could greatly benefit the speedy Gomez — who has 27 strikeouts — and in turn, the team.

“You’ve got to get on to do that,” said Macha, referring to Gomez scoring the winning run. “I think his on-base is around .290 right now, so it’s not like he’s leading the team in stolen bases — it’s not like I’ve had the red light on him, either.

“Every time he gets on, he’s got the green light. Yesterday on that particular pitch, I gave him, I’m encouraging him to go on that pitch. So I don’t think he needs much more encouragement. Once he saw that, he was going.”

Gomez, who has eight steals in 10 attempts on the season, ranks second on the club behind left fielder Ryan Braun, who has 11 steals in as many attempts.

When asked about Gomez and his approach, Macha said the key for him could be determining just what kind of hitter he’s going to be.

“If you watch his BP, he can hit the ball up in the seats pretty deep,” Macha said. “You’ve got to learn what you are, what type of hitter is going to make you successful, OK?

“He’s a big strong kid. He may turn into being a power hitter. In order to do that, you’ve got to make — I’ve said this all along — it’s not go up there and look for a walk. It’s get the ball in the strike zone.”

Macha has praise for opposing manager

MILWAUKEE — The Brewers pitchers and hitters had little experience against their opponents entering the game, but there was one face in the visiting dugout, Rangers manager Ron Washington, that was very familiar for Brewers manager Ken Macha.

Washington, who is in his fourth year as manager for the Rangers, coached with Macha for eight years in Oakland, where he served as first-base coach in 1996 before becoming the A’s infield and third-base coach from 1997-2006.

During that time, Washington developed a number of great infielders for Oakland.

“As far as I’m concerned, Wash is the best guy out there, and I think the proof is in the product that he put out there in Oakland,” Macha said. “He took a catcher in Scott Hatteberg and made him a pretty good first baseman. Mark Ellis, I think, holds the record in the American League for fewest errors at second base for an entire season, and Eric Chavez has got four or five Gold Gloves, not to mention the shortstops, [Miguel] Tejada and then Bobby Crosby, that he had.

“So the product is out there, and the reason that it’s out there is his work ethic. And I bet you if you go to Michael Young or Ian Kinsler and asked them, they’re going to tell you the same thing.”

With the Rangers in town for a three-game set over the weekend, Macha was happy to see Washington, though he hoped to take the series from his old friend.

“I consider him a dear friend,” Macha said. “It’s just a relationship that’s built over those years that we were together. So I wish him well, except for these next three days.”

Worth noting

Friday’s game marks the first visit by the Rangers to Miller Park since it opened in 2001. Texas has not played in Milwaukee since 1997, when both clubs were members of the American League. The Rangers won, 7-1, that day. … The winning pitcher in that game was Darren Oliver, who was in uniform for the Rangers on Friday. Oliver, 39, began his career with Texas and played with seven other teams before rejoining the club for a third time this season. … Since beginning the season 4-14 at home, the Brewers have gone 6-3 over their last nine games at Miller Park and have won three consecutive home series, going 2-1 against the Astros, Mets and Cubs. … With his 246th straight game played on Friday, first baseman Prince Fielder tied Robin Yount for the second longest streak in franchise history. Yount also owns the longest streak, at 274 games, which spanned from 1987-89. … The Brewers will host the first Brewers Block Party of 2010 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Saturday at McCarty Park in West Allis, Wis. With the weather a bit of a concern, check brewers.com/blockparty Saturday morning for an update on the status.

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.