Last time out, Francisco Liriano pitched seven scoreless innings but ended up with a no decision when the Texas Rangers later tied the game at 1-1. Last night at Target Field, run support was not a problem as the Twins pounded Royals pitching for a 6-run third inning and nine early runs on the way to a 10-3 victory. With the win, the Twins move to 82-57, and since the Chicago White Sox finally lost (9-1 to Justin Verlander and the Tigers), the division lead now sits at 4.5 games with 23 games remaining in the 2010 season. Good times all around, and the Twins have a chance to sweep the three game series as Brian Duensing faces Zack Greinke tonight.
The Twins opened the scoring in the bottom of the second with a Jim Thome walk, Delmon Young double off the wall in right center, and sacrifice fly from J.J. Hardy to put the Twins up 1-0. The Twins would build on this lead in the third, Denard Span led off with a sharp grounder that caught Royals first baseman Billy Butler with a high hop off his thumb, knocking Butler out of the game. After outs by Orlando Hudson and Joe Mauer, it didn't look like the start of a big inning. But Jason Kubel started the rally with a grounder up the middle to score Span and put the Twins up 2-0. And a single, walk, single, single and Matt Tolbert triple off the wall later and the Twins were up 7-0.
This was all Liriano would need, as he was in command all night. Josh Fields was able to hit a home run just over the fence in left in the fourth inning, only the fourth home run allowed by Liriano all year. And a wild pitch in the fifth would score another Royals run, but that's all they would get, as Liriano threw 95 pitches over seven innings, with 11 ground ball outs against 5 fly balls and 4 strikeouts against zero walks.
Studs, duds and a few notes after the jump:
- Delmon Young: 3-4, R, 4 RBI, 2 2B. Delmon smashed the ball all over the field last night. Hopefully this is the start of another hot streak.
- Francisco Liriano: 7 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 SO. An efficient seven innings, Liriano wasn't quite as sharp as last time out against the Rangers. But he was plenty good for his 13th win.
- Jim Thome: 1-1, 3 R, RBI, HR, 2 BB. This is turning into the norm for Thome, two walks and another long home run crushed to right field, almost the same place as the night before.
- J.J. Hardy: 1-3, 3 RBI. Hardy continues to produce runs at the bottom of the order.
I'm going to go with no duds last night. Every starter had at least one hit, and there were no pitching implosions.
Ben Revere made his Major League debut last night, replacing Denard Span in the 7th. He was a bit impatient at the plate, striking out on a slider out of the zone, but he should get plenty of opportunities as a pinch runner and defensive replacement down the stretch.
Pat Neshek returned from Rochester and pitched the ninth. He wasn't sharp, giving up two walks and a hit, but he got out with only one run allowed, perfectly fine when you come into an 8-run ball game.
- With the home run, Thome has now tied Frank Robinson with 586 career home runs. He now has 22 home runs and 52 RBI in only 241 at bats this season. Put me squarely in the "sign him to an extension, one year plus a team option" camp.
- Delmon Young drove in four more runs and now has 97 RBI on the season. He could hit the century mark as early as tonight if he can get to Greinke.