After failing to capitalize on an opportunity to take over the American League Central Division on Saturday night, the Twins were able to take advantage of the thrashing Kansas City leveled upon the Chicago White Sox. A Brendan Harris home run, an "effetively wild" performance by Francisco Liriano and a pair of triples combined to lift Minnesota over Cleveland.
Liriano's start was a jam sandwich. He cruised through the first two innings, sitting down all six hitters, two of them on strikes. His fastball ran mostly from 91 to 93, his slider had some nice break and still registered in the mid to upper 80's, and even the changeup was mixed in. Then in the sixth he was strong again, recording a pair of quick outs before matching up against Ryan Garko for eight pitches before putting him away. In between the second and sixth innings was the jam.
It was Francisco's fastball that started really getting away from him, as early as the top of the second, that led to his struggles. Particularly in the third inning he was unable to hit the spots that Mike Redmond was setting up for him, but all due credit to Redmond, who switched things up and started calling more sliders and off-speed pitches. 65 of Liriano's 96 pitches came in the third, fourth and fifth innings, as he loaded the bases in the third, had runners on first and second in the fourth, and runners on second and third in the fifth. But the important part is this: he found a way to get out of it. A double play, a big strikeout, a key ground ball; it wasn't a great start by Cisco, but the results are what matters.
Liriano went six, giving up just three hits and a trio of walks in addition to five strikeouts. But he didn't allow a run.
On the offensive side of the ball, Mike Lamb and Nick Punto registered triples, and Denard Span hit a solo shot off of Juan Rincon in the bottom of the 8th inning to put the final run of the game on the board.
For the first time since May, the Minnesota Twins are back in first place. Baseball is a long and patient game however, so there will be no time to look down at the four other teams in the Central and feel good about it. There's a lot of baseball to play before it's all said and done, so here's hoping they boys can continue to press the issue and start to wedge some space between themselves and second place. Chicago is off tomorrow, but the Twins are in Seattle to take on the Mariners.
First place, baby. Let's hold onto it!