Francisco Liriano showed up once more time this afternoon, firing bullets full of confidence and daring the Cleveland Indians to beat him. While they mounted a few threats over a couple of innings, Liriano's strikeouts and a trio of double plays kept the Indians from ever getting on the board. Cisco threw 68 of 108 pitches for strikes and tallied one wild pitch, but in addition to shutting down the opposition retired eight on strikes in seven innings.
The Twins put up four in the third, thanks in no small part to a leadoff double by Drew Butera. A big Delmon Young double kicked off the scoring and J.J. Hardy added another double later in the inning to cap off the rally. In the eighth Nick Punto and Denard Span walked and then pulled off a successful double steal (or perhaps a blown hit-and-run?), setting up Young for a big two-run single.
For the opportunities the Indians had to score, Minnesota had the same chances including a bases-loaded situation in the seventh. But I'm not complaining, I'll take a six-run performance from the offense and a goose egg from the pitching staff.
In his debut, Slama started by allowing a single after throwing back-to-back fastballs. But once he started throwing his off-speed stuff, the game was over. Shelley Duncan battled for seven pitches as Slama nipped every possible edge of the strike zone, but eventually struck out on a high fastball. Slama then attacked Trevor Crowe, with his stuff clearly tying Crowe up as much as Duncan as he too went down on strikes. Jason Donald went to two strikes as well, and Target Field rained down applause on the goofy-looking rookie with the mustache. Donald fought off a fastball, keeping Slama from striking out the side, but it was nevertheless a weak groundball to end the game.
It was a good debut by Slama and an even better afternoon for Liriano, capped off by a big win. Notes, studs and duds after the jump.
- Delmon Young hit third again today, and in the absence of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau picked up three more hits and three more RBI, pushing his batting average to .314 and his RBI total to 67. He's now also accumulated 27 doubles.
- Six of Liriano's eight strikeouts came on swinging strikes off the slider. He also had one swinging strikeout against his fastball, and one swinging strikeout from his changeup.
- Of Liriano's 11 in-play outs, eight were ground balls.
- Jim Thome played all afternoon and didn't register a single at-bat. He was 0-for-0 with 4 walks.
- Michael Cuddyer picked up two more hits. Remember how clutch he was last season playing first base in the absence of Morneau? Maybe when Justin comes back he should play right field. Or third base, since I'm dreaming.
Francisco Liriano: 7 IP, 6 H, 8 K, 4 BB, 0 R,
Delmon Young: 3-for-5, 2B, 3 RBI,
Michael Cuddyer: 2-for-4, RBI, R,
J.J. Hardy: 1-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI,
Jesse Crain: 1 IP, 1 K,
Anthony Slama: 1 IP, 2 K,