Liz, Orioles homers stall Twins’ playoff push

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BALTIMORE (AP)—A game that was important this season for the Minnesota Twins provided the Baltimore Orioles with hope for next year.

Radhames Liz pitched eight shutout innings, and the Orioles hit five home runs in a 7-3 victory Sunday.

The Twins, who started the day in a virtual tie with the Chicago White Sox for the AL Central lead, failed to complete a sweep against a team guaranteed its 11th consecutive losing season.

“Won the series here, two out of three,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’ll go to Cleveland and see if we can get a good start there on Monday and go from there.”

Nick Markakis and Oscar Salazar each homered twice, and Lou Montanez also connected for Baltimore. Liz, Salazar and Montanez are rookies, which gives the Orioles reason to believe their rebuilding project is on course for next year or 2010 at the latest.

“It gives us something to be excited about for the future,” manager Dave Trembley said. “There are a lot of young guys who played and contributed, Radhames had a good game and we beat a good team. That’s got to give you some incentive for the rest of the season and also be a benchmark for what the possibilities are.”

The five homers tied a season high for the Orioles, who had only five in their past six games.

“Just couldn’t keep the ball in the ballpark,” Gardenhire lamented.

Four of the home runs were off rookie Nick Blackburn, who had yielded only four homers in his previous nine starts. Blackburn (10-9) gave up six runs and nine hits in four innings.

“When you’re up like that in a (small) ballpark like this, when the ball is flying, it’s going to hurt you,” Gardenhire said. “He’s thrown the ball really well for us this year, given us a lot of opportunities to win. Today just wasn’t his day.”

Minnesota, which totaled 24 runs in a doubleheader sweep Saturday, was held scoreless until the ninth.

“We didn’t have as much life as we did yesterday,” said Justin Morneau, who went 0-for-3. “We win the series and take a positive out of that.”

Liz (6-5) gave up five hits, struck out four and walked one in his longest and most effective outing in the big leagues. Making his 19th career start, the right-hander did not permit a runner past second base.

“He’s got mid 90’s fastball, decent slider, pretty good split,” Morneau said. “He threw them all for strikes today, and that’s the key for him.”

In his last start, the erratic Liz threw 102 pitches against Cleveland and didn’t get out of the fifth inning. In this one, he threw 108 pitches before being lifted.

“I think I used my mind a little better, and my body,” Liz said. “I wasn’t trying to do too much, and let my emotion get to me with men on base.”

George Sherrill started the ninth, but was ineffective in his first appearance since Aug. 15. The All-Star closer allowed an RBI single to Brian Buscher and was replaced by Jim Miller with the bases loaded.

“George looked rusty,” Trembley said.

Sherrill, who was sidelined for three weeks with shoulder inflammation, said, “Everything felt good, nothing ever hurt or anything, so we’ll see how it bounces back from there and hopefully I’ll get better.”

Miller gave up a run-scoring single to Nick Punto and a sacrifice fly by Carlos Gomez before retiring Denard Span on a grounder to end it.

Markakis put the Orioles up 2-0 in the first inning with a liner that landed in the front row of the left-field seats.

Luke Scott led off the Baltimore second with a single and Salazar followed with a flyball to left that dropped into the seats just beyond the left-field wall.

Salazar and Montanez hit successive solo shots in the fourth to make it 6-0, and Markakis hit his 20th in the fifth off Philip Humber. It was the second career multihomer game for Markakis—both have come against the Twins—and the first for Salazar.


Liz’s major league debut, his first career win and longest outing all came against the Twins. … The last time Minnesota gave up five homers in a game was June 17, 2007, against Milwaukee. … The Twins are 3-7 in starts when Blackburn gives up a homer, and 7-2 when he does not. … Baltimore is 36-37 at home, compared to 35-46 last year. … Minnesota’s eight-game winning streak at Camden Yards ended.

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