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Twins 8, Red Sox 0: Liriano On Form, Wakefield Picked Apart

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The Twins take the first series at Target Field.  It's fitting.

I feel sorry for any Twins fans who missed his game.  Francisco Liriano was on it this afternoon, owning the Boston offense after a questionable first inning.  He threw 96 pitches through seven innings, and while that goose egg he put on the scoreboard is the part that really counts, it's eveything else he did that makes you think he can repeat that performance.  And often.

Liriano threw strikes today.  His fastball was hard, around 94 mph, and he hit his spots with it consistently.  The changeup went too, including a very impressive strikeout of Victor Martinez on a pulled-string variety off-speed pitch.  But once again, it was that nasty mid-80's slider that had the Red Sox baffled.  Seven of Liriano's eight strikeouts came by the knee-bending breaking ball.

Today had everything you wanted to see from Liriano.  Lots of strikes.  Control.  The ability to fight back when behind in the count.  More ground balls than fly balls.  All three pitches worked today.  Liriano looked exactly like the ace he can be.

It helps that his offense put him in a position to be aggressive.  J.J. Hardy's run-scoring single in the second inning gave the Twins a 1-0 lead, but the team combined some solid hits with a couple of Boston miscues in the field to heap it on later.

Nick Punto had a stellar game today, and I can't tell you how happy I am to say that.  His double to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning put the Twins on-track, preceeding Denard Span's double, an intentional walk of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau's liner off the right field fence and Michael Cuddyer's sacrifice fly.  The Twins scored three in the fifth and the outcome was never in doubt after that.

As for Nick, that was just his first double of the afternoon.  Punto finished the day with a trio of hits, two of which were doubles, and he even made another nice stop in the field by backhanding a hard-hit grounder and making a solid thow across the diamond.  With three hits he finished the day with a .269/.286/.423 line.  It could be worse.

Another Span double scored two in the sixth.  Cuddyer's two-run shot in the seventh ended the scoring.

Other Notes

  • Dustin Pedroia is good.  As in ridiculously, disgustingly good.  I really like him as a player.
  • Jose Mijares didn't look good today.  Bert pointed out how straight up-and-down he was while he pitched, and it made it look like he was throwing batting practise.  He escaped a bases-loaded jam with a double play.
  • Joe Mauer didn't get a hit today.  He reached base with a walk, but no hits.  It's his first start this season where he didn't pick one up.
  • Ron Mahay finished the game, looking like the bullpen's new grizzled veteran.  Every team needs one.
  • PUNTO!!!
  • I can't say enough about how good Liriano was today.  He was fun to watch.
  • Mauer, Morneau and Cuddyer are off to hot starts.  Hudson and Span, not so much.  Span had a good day, though.

Studs
HM:  Nick Punto  (3-for-4, 2 2B, 2 R, .013 WPA)
#3:  Denard Span  (2-for-5, 2 2B, 2 RBI, R, .071 WPA)
#2:  Michael Cuddyer  (2-for-3, HR, 3 RBI, R, BB, .046 WPA)
#1:  Francisco Liriano  (7 IP, 4 H, 8 K, 2 BB, 0 R, .350 WPA)

Duds
#1:  Jose Mijares  (1 IP, DP, 2 H, BB)
#2:  Joe Mauer  (0-for-4)
#3:  Jim Thome  (1-for-5)

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