Using an improved changeup and pitching down in the zone, Liz (1-0) allowed two runs and four hits in 5 1-3 innings for the Orioles, who snapped a nine-game losing streak to Minnesota and improved to 25-8 when scoring at least four runs in a game.
“It makes you feel good that somebody was listening and put it into place,” manager Dave Trembley said. “We told him we weren’t going to bring him back unless we thought he was ready to pitch.”
Kevin Slowey (2-5) gave up four runs on seven hits in six innings for the Twins, who got going a little too late against Liz.
The 24-year-old Dominican breezed through the first five innings, allowing just one hit and one walk as the Orioles jumped out to a 4-0 lead.
“I feel very excited. I came to throw the ball, and I was very focused and threw strikes,” Liz said. “I feel like I want to do it, this is the way. I want to be here and I want to stay here and I am very excited about it.”
The Twins got three straight doubles in the sixth from Carlos Gomez, Alexi Casilla and Joe Mauer to cut the deficit to 4-2, ending Liz’s night. Matt Albers allowed one run in 1 2-3 innings of relief and George Sherrill picked up his 19th save in 21 chances.
It had to be an encouraging sign for Liz, who was roughed up by the Twins in his major league debut last August and was just 1-5 with a 4.05 ERA at Triple-A Norfolk this season.
“Last year, I wasn’t good when I started. So, right away when I went to the mound, I didn’t feel comfortable,” he said. “Now I feel comfortable and I think I have in my mind to throw strikes, look at the ball and be comfortable with all of my pitches.”
With a big leg kick and a fastball that reached 94 mph, Liz retired 16 of the first 18 batters he faced and mixed in plenty of offspeed pitches to keep the Twins off balance.
“He’s earned an opportunity to come back here and we think an awful lot of him,” Trembley said. “I just liked what I saw from him tonight. He looked really relaxed, confident. He has a heck of an arm.”
In his last five full starts for Norfolk, Liz walked 16 batters, so the Twins wanted to be patient in the early going. But he kept throwing strike after strike, getting ahead in the count and surprising Minnesota’s hitters.
“We were expecting him to be wild and stuff,” DH Jason Kubel said. “But he was pretty much on the money tonight.”
Slowey, the 2007 Twins minor league pitcher of the year, has been compared to the retired Brad Radke early in his career largely because of his reliance on location rather than overpowering stuff. But the two right-handers share something else in common—a propensity to give up the long ball.
Coming off his first career complete game against Kansas City last week, Slowey gave up leadoff homers to Millar in the second and Mora in the sixth and has allowed 22 homers in 18 career starts.
“I didn’t have my best stuff tonight,” Slowey said. “But I still didn’t use the stuff I had properly.”
He yielded to Juan Rincon to start the seventh, and the struggling reliever gave up a leadoff double to Ramon Hernandez, threw a wild pitch and then an RBI-single to Adam Jones that gave Baltimore a 5-2 lead.
Brian Roberts went 2-for-5 with a double and his AL-leading fifth triple of the season.
Baltimore LHP Adam Loewen (elbow) will throw one inning in extended spring training on Wednesday. If all goes well, O’s manager Dave Trembley said, Loewen will leave extended spring to start a rehab assignment. … Trembley on the decision to designate SS Luis Hernandez for assignment: “Sometimes you have to take a step back before you can take a step forward.” … Twins 1B Justin Morneau was in the lineup again despite a sore left knee and a sore calf. Manager Ron Gardenhire said he might give Morneau a day or two at DH to let him rest.