Rays 6, Twins 2: Liriano's Control and Mechanics Continue to Hold Him Back

You're breaking my heart, Frankie.

We're not four starts into Francisco Liriano's 2012 season, and he continues to have trouble finding any kind of consistency on the mound. For a guy with Liriano's experience you figure that if he's struggling this badly, you give him a few starts to get it going. But once we get past that fifth start, anyone who struggles as badly as Liriano has struggled is living on borrowed time.

Tim Lincicum was scheduled to start for the Giants today before they were rained out. His ERA remains in the double digits. It would have been interesting to see if he would have been able to get back on track, but Liriano is in the same ballpark in terms of disappointing performance.

Today's five-run, five-inning performance actually lowered Liriano's ERA. He walked four, struck out four, and surprisingly allowed just three hits. He also hit Elliott Johnson. All of his base runners (except one walk) came over the third, fourth, and fifth innings.

There was talk this weekend about Liriano using his two-seam fastball more than his four-seamer, and he certainly did that today. According to MLB.com's data he threw 39 two-seamers and just one four-seam fastball. Whatever the Twins were attempting to accomplish with that chang, it certainly didn't take effect today. Excluding out-of-zone swings by Rays hitters, 22 of the two-seamers were called balls.

In the third inning, when the Rays scored twice without getting a hit, Liriano walked Sean Rodiguez on five pitches - two balls were two-seamers. He then walked Chris Gimenez on four straight two-seamers. Whatever is happening there, it still needs work.

The offense didn't give Liriano any support. Josh Willingham reached base three times (walk, HBP, error), but was still 0-for-2 to end his hitting streak. Joe Mauer, Willingham, Justin Morneau, Chris Parmelee, and Danny Valencia (the starting 3-4-5-6-7 in the order) were a combined 0-for-16. Only Ryan Doumit, who delivered a two-out, two-run pinch hit single for Parmelee in the sixth, broke the chain in the middle of the lineup. Denard Span (hit, walk) and Jamey Carroll (two hits) each reached twice.

After a promising start to the series on Friday night, the Twins drop two in a row and miss out on taking a big series away from home. More pressing right now, however, is what can be done for Francisco Liriano. I don't think the Twins can take him out quite yet, but they can't give him an indefinite leash.

Studs

Ryan Doumit (1-for-2, 2 RBI, .052 WPA)
Anthony Swarzak (2 IP, 3 K, 0 R, .020 WPA)
Denard Span (1-for-3, BB, SB, R, .015 WPA)

Duds

Mauer, Morneau, Parmelee, Valencia (0-for-14, 5 K, -.299 WPA)
Francisco Liriano (5 IP, 5 R, 3 H, 4 K, 4 BB, -.237 WPA)
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