Although they didn’t make a deal at last week’s non-waiver trade deadline, the Minnesota Twins were still able to strengthen their starting rotation.
Minnesota (64-51) defeated the Royals 4-1 in Friday’s series opener, as it remained a half-game behind the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox. The Twins have won nine of 13 following a five-game slide to stay in the mix for the division lead.
While other teams with postseason aspirations were involved with trades last week, Minnesota didn’t make any moves. Instead, the Twins recalled Liriano (1-3, 7.16 ERA) from Triple-A Rochester on Aug. 1 to help bolster their rotation for a playoff push.
Liriano went 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 121 innings in 2006 before arm problems cut short his rookie year. He then missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
The left-hander posted a 11.32 ERA in losing his first three starts this season in April and was sent to the minors. He dominated at Rochester, though, and he looked sharp in his first major league game in more than three months.
On Sunday, Liriano allowed three hits and three walks with five strikeouts in six scoreless innings of a 6-2 victory over Cleveland. It was his first win since defeating the Indians on July 23, 2006.
“That’s a good start to having him back in the rotation,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Liriano needed just 19 pitches to get through the first two innings, and finished throwing 96 pitches—56 for strikes.
“He looked more like the old Liriano, like the one before,” Twins catcher Mike Redmond told the team’s official Web site. “It’s only going to get better. He’s only going to get stronger.”
Liriano made his season debut at Kansas City on April 13, and yielded four runs, six hits and five walks in 4 2-3 innings of a 5-1 loss in his first career start against the Royals (53-63).
Despite that loss, the Twins have won eight of 10 over Kansas City this season, including six of seven at Kauffman Stadium.
All-Star catcher Joe Mauer drove in two runs on Friday, but is hitting only .167 (6-for-36) with four RBIs in nine games against the Royals this season.
Mauer and fellow All-Star Justin Morneau have also had no luck against Saturday’s scheduled starter Zack Greinke (9-7, 3.93). Mauer is 3-for-19 (.158) in his career against Greinke, while Morneau is batting .190 (4-for-21) with two doubles lifetime versus him.
After being tagged for 12 runs and 18 hits in nine innings in losing his first two starts after the All-Star break, Greinke has yielded four runs and 13 hits with 17 strikeouts in 13 2-3 innings in winning his last two.
On Sunday, the right-hander allowed two runs in 6 1-3 innings of a 14-3 win over the Chicago White Sox. He was ejected for hitting Nick Swisher, though, after each team had already been warned and drew a five-game suspension, which he is appealing.
In his only start against Minnesota this season on May 28, Greinke gave up three runs and struck out eight in eight innings of a 9-8, 10-inning loss.
The Royals lost their third straight game Friday after winning seven of eight. They have not dropped four in a row since a season-worst 12-game skid May 19-30.
Rookie Mike Aviles had his second four-hit game in five days on Friday, and is batting .489 (23-for-47) with three home runs, six RBIs and 12 runs in his last 11.