Twins 2, Pirates 1: Liriano, Willingham Come Up Big in Pittsburgh

WILLINGHAMMER.

**Editor's note: this is the last week for a while I'll have someone covering my recaps. In addition to the normal grind of working full-time, my full-time school schedule has been kicking my butt. Tonight, fetch (@fetch9) provides the recap (and plenty of commentary...). Many thanks!

The story tonight was Francisco Liriano...and Josh Willingham. Both Twins players came up huge for the team, but in very different ways. Liriano's 6 2/3 innings pitched very much kept the Twins in the game; the former ace only gave up one earned run, allowing just four hits and walking only two. He managed to strike out six Pirates batters, and though he went 0-for-3 at the plate, was crucial in getting the Twins another win and helping tie the series up.

Read the rest of the recap after the jump...

I'm not ready to say Liriano is back yet - after all his last five starts have been against the A's, Royals, Cubs, Brewers and now Pirates, hardly a murderer's row - but since being reinstated into the rotation he has a 2.67 ERA (ERA being a virtually meaningless stat caveat here) and other than the Milwaukee start his control has been much better. He had just one unintentional walk last night and his strike throwing percentage has been well over 50% since his return to the rotation. To be fair, it could have been much worse for Liriano had Span not made a diving catch in center in the 7th inning, but I think some of that blame has to be passed along to the coaching staff for not recognizing Liriano was having one of "those" innings and he should be taken out ASAP. Still, with how much better his stuff has looked and how his control has improved I am incredibly optimistic about Liriano, as well as the value he now has in a trade should it come to that.

As for Willingham, there's not much that could be said that hasn't been already. He now has 14 home runs on the season, while playing his home games in Target Field no less, and is enjoying a breakout season in Minnesota. His outburst has prompted questions of whether the Twins should in fact trade him to get younger talent in return. Personally I can see the value of either trading him or holding onto him. Willingham has been so good this year, and I do think that with a couple of good free agent signings or trades this winter the Twins very well could contend next year. Plus, even though it is only the third season of Target Field the team does need to sell tickets and there's no doubt Willingham has turned into a fan favorite in short time. However, Willingham is already 33 and is having his best season as a major leaguer. The odds that this is the best year of his contract are astronomically high, so it might be time to cash out. With having 2+ years left on his contract, which already was a reasonable one and now looks like an absolute steal, the Twins have the rare opportunity to bring back real young talent in a trade, a rarity because of the vigor with which teams hold onto their prospects these days. Personally I would trade him, but I wouldn't object to watching him belting out 15 or so more homers for the Twins this year either.

Studs and Duds!

Studs:

Liriano, obviously: 6 strikeouts next to just 1 unintentional walk in 6.2 innings and he threw 60 of his 97 pitches for strikes while allowing just 1 run

Willingham: Hit the game winning homer plus hit his 19th double of the season earlier in the game.

Span: Went 1-4 at the plate but was tremendous in the field, including his diving catch in the 7th which saved the game for the Twins

Duds:

Brian Dozier: He walked once but his OBP is down to just .262 and with his struggles in the field I cant tell why he is in the majors

Ben Revere: 0-4 with a strikeout for Revere, just 1 of 3 starters to take an 0-fer

Francisco Liriano the hitter: It is fun in a comedic sense to watch pitchers flail around at the plate, but it doesn't add anything baseball wise. Long live the DH!

Go Twins! And see you all next week!

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