The surging Twins (31-34) try to match a season high with their fifth straight win when they open a three-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates (26-41) on Friday at PNC Park.
Minnesota beat the Boston Red Sox 5-3 on Thursday to complete a three-game sweep and conclude a 5-1 homestand. The Twins have won six of their last seven overall.
Minnesota, however, plays its next six games on the road—where it is 10-24 this season.
“Hopefully this continues a little trend and we can ride this wave right now and go on the road and play better than we have,” said Twins closer Joe Nathan, who pitched two innings Thursday for his eighth save in as many chances.
Liriano (5-1, 2.10 ERA) was dominant at times pitching out the bullpen at the start of the season, but he has been even more overpowering since joining the starting rotation May 19. The left-hander is 4-1 with a 1.24 ERA in five starts, not allowing a run in three of those outings and going at least six innings in his last three games.
Liriano, 22, is coming off his best start of the season Sunday, when he pitched seven innings and gave up one hit in a 4-0 victory over Baltimore. Liriano, who carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning, walked two and struck out six.
“It’s kind of the same feeling you have when (Johan) Santana is out there,” Twins first baseman Justin Morneau said of Liriano’s starts. “You feel like he can throw a shutout every time he pitches.”
Liriano won his only interleague start of the season, a 7-1 victory over Milwaukee on May 19, and will be making his first appearance against the Pirates. He will be opposed by another young standout in Ian Snell (7-3, 4.75), who will try to win his sixth straight start when he takes the ball for Pittsburgh.
The right-hander was 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA in his first eight starts but is 5-0 with a 3.00 ERA since, striking out 28 batters through 30 innings during his winning streak.
Snell overcame a shaky first inning Saturday to pitch seven innings, giving up three hits in a 2-0 victory over San Francisco.
“It makes you feel good that this is a young guy starting to figure some things out,” Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. “To rectify himself in the manner in which he did and go through seven scoreless innings is just terrific. It’s a terrific performance.”
Snell, who will face Minnesota for the first time, recorded a 9-6 victory over Cleveland in his only interleague start May 20.
Snell will face a challenge in Twins left fielder Jason Kubel, who homered in his third straight game Thursday and is batting .389 (14-for-36) with 11 RBIs during an eight-game hitting streak.
The Twins hold an 8-7 lead in the series with the Pirates, taking two of three in 2001 when the clubs last met. Pittsburgh fell 6-5 at home to St. Louis on Thursday, losing the three-game series, but is 18-16 at PNC Park this season.
Two days after recalling Jason Bartlett from Triple-A Rochester to be their regular shortstop, the Twins traded infielder Juan Castro back to Cincinnati on Thursday for minor league outfielder Brandon Roberts. Castro hit .231 with five doubles, one homer and 14 RBIs in 156 at-bats in 50 games, but Bartlett’s arrival effectively demoted Castro to his familiar utility role.
Castro played five seasons with the Reds from 2000-04.