BALTIMORE (AP)—For five innings, the Minnesota Twins couldn’t catch up to the overpowering fastball of Radhames Liz.
Facing a right-hander who had never pitched above the Double-A level, the Twins entered the sixth with only two hits. Then Torii Hunter got his timing down, and Liz found out what happens to bad pitches in the major leagues.
Hunter hit a three-run homer to spoil an otherwise impressive performance by Liz, Jason Bartlett went 4-for-4 with two RBIs, and Minnesota handed the Baltimore Orioles their fifth straight loss, 8-1 on Saturday night.
After hitting a pop up and striking out, Hunter hit his 26th home run of the season to extend his hitting streak to 12 games and put the Twins up 5-1.
“He throws gas. He throws like 97, 98 (mph) all game,” Hunter said of Liz. “It took us a while; we didn’t know nothing about him. We didn’t know whether his ball was sinking or cutting or whatever.
“But we saw that he had a nice, hard fastball. I think the second time around we started tuning to it and we were able to catch up to it. It took me three times.”
After Liz left, Hunter added an RBI double in a two-run eighth that made it 7-1.
Minnesota has won four in a row and eight of 11. The Twins have beaten the Orioles eight straight times, including six this season.
But Minnesota lost reigning AL batting champion Joe Mauer, who left the game in the eighth inning after experiencing left hamstring tightness while running the bases.
“We’re going to go day-to-day with his hamstring,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’ll know more (Sunday) how he’s doing.”
Liz (0-1) never got to the Triple-A level in three professional seasons before facing the Twins. The 24-year-old was still throwing 97 mph fastballs when Hunter hit an 0-1 pitch deep into the left-field seats.
“It’s the same baseball, but down there, they are not going to swing at a mistake and hit it out,” Liz said.
Liz gave up five runs and four hits in six innings. He walked three and struck out five.
“Great arm. The ball jumps out of his hand,” Gardenhire said. “He didn’t throw very many breaking balls until the end there. He was pretty much shutting us down with the fastball, and that’s hard to do in the big leagues. That just tells you a little bit about his arm—it’s a great arm.”
But Liz was outpitched by Twins rookie Matt Garza (3-4) who allowed one runs and five hits in five innings. Half of Garza’s six career wins have come against Baltimore, all at Camden Yards.
Corey Patterson went 4-for-5 for the Orioles, who fell a season-high tying 12 games under .500 (58-70). Baltimore has been outscored 59-17 during its five-game skid, which began with a 30-3 loss to Texas on the day the team announced manager Dave Trembley would return next season.
Kevin Millar singled in the second inning to extend his club-record streak of reaching base via a hit, walk or hit by pitch to 52 consecutive games. Since 1957, only six players have had a longer run in one season, led by Orlando Cabrera (63 in 2006).
After the start of the game was delayed by rain for 1 hour, 51 minutes, Liz began his major league career by striking out Jason Tyner. Bartlett followed with a single, but was tagged out after oversliding second base on an attempted steal before Mauer flied out.
Minnesota went down in order in the second, but took a 2-0 lead in the third. Liz walked the first two batters and Bartlett delivered a two-out, two-run single.
That was the extent of the Twins’ offense until the sixth.
“Other than the back-to-back walks and the ball he got up to Hunter, he was
good,” Trembley said. “He comes as advertised. He
Asked if Liz would get another shot, Trembley replied, “I would think he’d pitch again.”
The Orioles got their lone run in the third, on a run-scoring groundout by Nick Markakis.
Orioles C Ramon Hernandez went 0-for-3 and is 3-for-48 (.063) over his last 14 games. … Twins RHP Scott Baker will start Sunday after flying back from Louisiana, where his wife gave birth to a boy on Friday night. … Minnesota starters have earned wins in four straight games for the first time since Sept. 16-20.