Liriano looks to win his fifth straight start this month as the Twins try to recapture first place in the division by visiting the Seattle Mariners for the opener of a three-game series Monday night at Safeco Field.
Liriano (4-3, 4.24 ERA) was a leading candidate for AL Rookie of the Year honors with a 12-3 record and 2.16 ERA in 2006, but he finished in third place in the voting after having his season derailed by a left elbow injury.
Surgery on his throwing arm kept him out of baseball in 2007, and his return to the majors in April wasn’t pretty. Liriano lost all three of his starts with an 11.32 ERA that month, earning a demotion to Triple-A Rochester.
Three months with the Red Wings appears to have worked wonders for Liriano, who’s won each of his four starts with a 1.14 ERA since being recalled Aug. 1. He has allowed an earned run in only one of those games.
Though he struggled with his command Wednesday, Liriano held Oakland to one unearned run in five innings of a 3-1 victory.
“Fortunately, he’s got good enough stuff to not let them score any runs, which is pretty amazing because it seemed like there was people (on base) all over the place,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told the team’s official Web site.
Liriano is 2-1 with a 1.50 ERA in three career starts against Seattle, which bodes well for a Minnesota team hoping to get back on top of the AL Central.
The Twins (74-56) have lost back-to-back games for the first time since dropping consecutive contests to the Mariners on Aug. 4 and 5, and have fallen a half-game behind the Chicago White Sox in the division.
First baseman Justin Morneau went 3-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs Sunday to reach 100 RBIs for the third straight season, but didn’t get much help from the rest of the batting order in a 5-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
“If we won the game, it would mean a lot more,” Morneau said. “But right now we’re in a pennant race, and we’re going to need more than just a hundred RBIs. I’m going to need to keep driving in runs and helping us win ballgames.”
The Twins haven’t lost three straight games since a five-game skid July 20-25.
The AL-worst Mariners (48-82) beat Oakland 8-4 on Sunday to earn a split of the four-game series. Kenji Johjima, who’s been splitting time at catcher with prospect Jeff Clement, went 2-for-3 with a solo home run and two runs scored.
“I come prepared everyday, that’s all I have in mind,” Johjima said through a translator. “I don’t prepare myself to be a backup either. I wake up at the same time and I eat at the same time as well. I prepare for the game the same way.”
Johjima hopes to be behind the plate Monday for Miguel Batista (4-12, 6.55), who’s making his first start since giving up six runs in three innings of Seattle’s 11-6 win over Minnesota on Aug. 4. The right-hander has gone 0-1 with a 2.84 ERA in six relief appearances - including two scoreless outings against the Twins - since that game.
Batista is 2-1 with a 5.86 ERA in nine career games - five starts - against Minnesota, which has won four straight against Seattle since Aug. 6.