The Twins, barely holding on to their postseason aspirations, may need a big game at the plate to overcome another potentially terrible outing from Liriano in a matchup with the lowly Kansas City Royals on Friday night.
Minnesota (83-76) avoided elimination from playoff contention with an 8-3 win over AL Central-leading Detroit on Thursday.
The Twins are two games behind the Tigers with three to play for both teams. Detroit is hosting the Ozzie Guillen-led Chicago White Sox over the weekend.
“We’re going to the Dome for the last weekend, and we’ve still got a shot,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’ve got to beat the Royals and, ‘Come on, Ozzie!’ I’m going to leave him a note.”
If a tiebreaker is necessary, Minnesota would host the extra game against Detroit by virtue of winning the season series. That contest would likely be Tuesday because the Vikings are playing Monday night at the Metrodome.
A Tigers win and a Twins loss, though, would end Minnesota’s playoff hopes. Twins fans have reason to feel uncomfortable about their chances with Liriano (5-13, 5.84 ERA) on the mound.
The left-hander is making his 25th start of the season after being used out of the bullpen for most of September. He’s 1-4 with a 9.00 ERA in his last five starts.
In his last outing, Liriano pitched a scoreless inning of relief in a 7-2 loss to Detroit on Wednesday night. His most recent start was three days earlier in Kansas City, and he failed to get out of the second inning in a 4-1 loss.
He’s 2-3 with a 5.46 ERA in six starts versus the Royals.
Kansas City (65-94) will counter with Lenny DiNardo(notes) (0-2, 7.52), making his fifth start since being called up Sept. 8. The left-hander lost to Minnesota on Saturday night, surrendering seven runs - three earned - and eight hits in five innings in an 11-6 defeat.
It was the second loss in as many career starts against the Twins for DiNardo, who has allowed 34 hits and 13 walks in 20 1-3 innings.
Though the Royals are last in the AL Central, they have shown no signs of quitting down the stretch and have won six of their last 10 road games.
In its last contest, Kansas City beat the New York Yankees on the road 4-3 on Wednesday night, ending the AL East champions’ seven-game winning streak.
“It’s good to play teams that have something to play for, so it keeps our intensity high,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said.
Joakim Soria(notes), one of Kansas City’s few bright spots, is expected to be available for this series. He got three outs for his 30th save in 33 chances versus New York, and said his right shoulder felt fine after the game.
Soria was held out of Tuesday night’s 4-3 loss to the Yankees after a two-inning, 46-pitch save against Minnesota on Sunday left his shoulder feeling sore.
The right-hander has converted all 11 of his save opportunities versus the Twins, posting a 0.76 ERA in 18 appearances against them.
Minnesota, though, is coming off a strong effort at the plate.
Minnesota leads the season series 9-6.