Minnesota (49-56) at Oakland (47-58)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Oakland, CA
Temp: 54° F
  • Game info: 10:05 pm EDT Fri Jul 29, 2011
Preview | Box Score | Recap

If the Minnesota Twins are to make a serious run at a third straight AL Central title, they cannot afford many subpar efforts from Francisco Liriano(notes).

Liriano looks to bounce back from his roughest outing of the year when the Twins open a three-game series Friday night against the Oakland Athletics.

Minnesota settled for a split of its four-game set with AL West-leading Texas after a 4-1 loss Thursday. Scott Baker(notes) gave up two runs over seven innings, but the Twins dropped to 23-31 on the road heading into the second stop on a 10-game trip.

“It was a tough loss, but at the same time we showed some courage being able to come back after first night,” the Twins’ Michael Cuddyer(notes) said, referring to Monday when they allowed 20 runs and 27 hits. “To come back and split the series against the team with the best home record in the American League, that was good.”

The Twins (49-56) were 20 games below .500 on June 1, but are now six games behind division-leading Detroit.

To close that gap, Minnesota will need a better effort from Liriano (6-8, 4.82 ERA) after the left-hander threw 78 pitches in 2 1-3 innings in Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the Tigers. Liriano, who gave up four runs and six hits, left Target Field without speaking to reporters, and manager Ron Gardenhire wasn’t pleased.

“That’s not making any adjustments. Frankie is better than that. He’s supposed to be one of our best pitchers and today he didn’t get it done,” he said.

Despite a 3.50 ERA in eight road starts, Liriano is 3-4. He’s received two or fewer runs of support in seven of those outings, and is 0-2 with a 6.29 over five career starts in Oakland.

The Twins are 3-2 versus the A’s this year, including a two-game road sweep May 18 and 19.

Having alternated wins and losses in four starts this month, Gio Gonzalez(notes) (9-7, 2.67) will try to close his July with a victory for the A’s.

In wins at home over Arizona and the Los Angeles Angels, Gonzalez allowed one run in 14 innings. However, the left-hander has been lit up for 13 runs over 8 2-3 innings in road losses to Texas and the New York Yankees.

Gonzalez improved to 2-2 against the Twins after limiting them to four hits in six innings of a 1-0 win April 9 in Minneapolis. He also slashed his career ERA against them by more than 2 1/2 runs to 8.03.

Oakland (47-58) appeared well on its way to completing a four-game sweep of Tampa Bay on Thursday after taking a 5-0 first-inning lead. However, three relievers gave up seven runs in the seventh, sending the A’s to a 10-8 loss.

“As a whole the bullpen’s been a really solid unit this year, so for it to unravel and to give away a lead like that is tough, no matter how many guys took part in it,” said Brad Ziegler(notes), who allowed three runs and didn’t retire a batter. “Our offense is hitting the ball like crazy right now and we have to do a better job keeping the other team down to make sure that the runs we score matter.”

Over the last 12 games, Oakland is hitting .312 to help raise the team’s average to .244. The A’s haven’t been above that mark since they hit .249 on April 6.

Cliff Pennington(notes) singled Thursday to extend his hitting streak to a career-best 12 games. Oakland’s shortstop is 20 for 44 during his run, and his .455 average is the highest by any player since the All-Star break.

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Starting Pitchers

F. Liriano Pit vs. G. González Was
9-10 Record 16-12
5.09 ERA 3.12
112 K 197
75 BB 91
1.49 WHIP 1.32


Friday, Jul 29