The Twins, who stumbled into the All-Star break, hope Liriano can stop their losing skid Thursday when they open a four-game series against the Cleveland Indians at the Metrodome.
Minnesota (47-39) won 21 of 23 games from June 8-July 3, but lost four of its last five games before the All-Star Game.
“We go into the break a little disappointed,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Liriano (10-1, 1.83 ERA), who accounted for that lone win and leads the majors in ERA, was one of five players nominated for the final spot on the American League All-Star team, but was beaten out by Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski in Internet voting. He was then named as a replacement to the AL team on Monday, filling in for White Sox right-hander Jose Contreras.
Liriano arrived at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park just four hours before Tuesday’s All-Star Game, but AL manager Ozzie Guillen did not use him.
In his last outing, the 22-year-old left-hander gave up four hits in seven innings in a 4-0 win over Texas last Thursday to win his sixth straight start.
“The kid is unbelievable,” Gardenhire said. “That’s a great hitting team over there, and he shut them down pretty good.”
Liriano has a 1.23 ERA in his last six starts, and has allowed just seven hits while striking out 20 in 15 shutout innings over his last two.
He has never started against the Indians (40-47), but struck out seven in 3 2-3 scoreless innings in two relief appearances against them.
Catcher Joe Mauer, who leads the majors with .378 batting average, was 0-for-2 in Tuesday’s All-Star Game. He went 0-for-8 in his last two games before the break, going hitless in consecutive games for the first time all season.
Like the Twins, Cleveland also lost four of its last five games before the break.
The Indians have their worst record at the break since 2003, when they were 41-53.
“We definitely had higher expectations for ourselves,” starting pitcher Jake Westbrook said. “We’re frustrated in the sense that we feel like we’re a better team. We just haven’t played up to our capabilities.”
Cliff Lee (8-6, 4.76) will start for Cleveland on Thursday as he looks to rebound from his first loss since May 29.
Lee allowed seven runs—four earned—and 10 hits in six innings of a 10-4 loss to the New York Yankees last Thursday.
It was his first loss in his last seven starts, and he was hurt by Cleveland’s defense, which had two errors.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” Lee said. “It’s tough when you make a pitch and the guy should be out, and he doesn’t get out. But you’ve got to keep your composure and continue to execute.”
The left-hander is 3-2 with a 4.63 ERA in nine road starts this season, winning his last three. He has a 4.34 ERA during his road winning streak, and has not won four straight road starts since winning five in a row April 18-May 22, 2005.
Lee is 4-2 with a 4.56 ERA in nine starts against Minnesota in his five-year career, and 1-1 with a 5.48 ERA in four career starts at the Metrodome.