Getting swept by a team likely to miss the playoffs isn’t what the Minnesota Twins needed in their quest for an AL Central title.
They’ll try to avoid losing a fourth consecutive game, and possibly falling further back in the division race Friday night when they open a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers.
The Twins (77-63) had a chance to close within one-half game of the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox on Thursday, but a 9-0 loss at Toronto dropped them 1 1/2 games off the pace.
Minnesota managed just four hits in the loss as it closed a 5-9 road trip. The defeat was also the Twins’ ninth in 12 games following an 8-1 run that put them alone atop the division on Aug. 22. They relinquished the lead to Chicago two days later.
“We’ve got to get home and see if we can right the ship,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
The Twins now hope a series with the Tigers (67-73), losers of eight of their last 11, can help them get back on track. They have won five of six home meetings with Detroit, and have already clinched the season series with a 10-5 mark.
Francisco Liriano (4-3, 3.45 ERA) looks to continue his outstanding pitching and remain unbeaten for a seventh consecutive start since being recalled from Triple-A Rochester on Aug. 1.
The left-hander is 4-0 with a 1.23 ERA, 29 strikeouts and 11 walks in 36 2-3 innings over his last six starts. That stellar run is in stark contrast to his first three starts of 2008, when he struggled in his comeback from offseason Tommy John surgery and went 0-3 with an 11.32 ERA, prompting his demotion to the minors on April 25.
Liriano had another strong performance Saturday, but the Twins failed to capitalize and lost 3-2 at Oakland. He yielded one run and five hits with six strikeouts in seven innings before leaving without a decision.
“My first pitch was a strike all the time and they were swinging early in the count so that’s why I went far in the game,” Liriano told the team’s official Web site. “I felt pretty good out there.”
Liriano is 1-1 with a 5.53 ERA in six games - four starts - against the Tigers, but hasn’t faced them since a loss on Aug. 7, 2006.
The Tigers, coming off Thursday’s 7-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, will give the ball to Armando Galarraga (12-4, 3.17), who has emerged as their most reliable starter in his first full season in the majors.
Galarraga leads Detroit in wins and ERA, and has been impressive over his last eight starts, going 5-0 with a 2.72 ERA. That stretch continued Sunday, when he yielded two runs and eight hits with seven strikeouts over seven innings in Detroit’s 4-2 win over Kansas City.
Galarraga, though, is 0-3 with a 4.56 ERA in four starts against the Twins this season. In his last start against them on July 11, he allowed two runs and six hits with four walks in 5 2-3 innings of a 3-2 loss.
“They’re a tough team,” Galarraga told the Tigers’ official Web site. “They put a lot of balls in play all the time. They sacrifice all the time, do their job.”