Twins finish what they start and do what playoff teams need to do: beat an inferior team.
Through the first five innings today, Francisco Liriano and Luke French traded zeroes. Each offense had opportunities, but Liriano was able to lock it down and work around a double and a triple while French helped the Twins waste a few hits of their own.
But eventually, as history has taught us, if you push hard enough the French give in.
With one out in the bottom of the sixth, Alexi Casilla continued to contribute from the number two spot by picking up a single. Delmon Young followed that up with a double, and French intentionally walked Michael Cuddyer in order to pitch to Jason Kubel.
I know, right? Jason friggin' Kubel. It's like nobody on the Seattle bench knew what Kubel is like with the bases loaded. I imagine some distracted bench coach saying "yeah just walk Cuddyer" and then realizing too late his mistake, at which point Kubel was missing a grand slam by about three feet. Kubel's bases-clearing double put the Twins up 3-0, and Danny Valencia followed that with his second hit of the afternoon with a scorching line drive over Matt Tuiasosopo at third base to make it 4-0.
It was all Liriano needed and more. Liriano burned the edges of the strike zone and threw a lot of ridiculously unhittable pitches, all of it culminating in seven shutout innings and eleven strikeouts. Chone Figgins, Russel Branyan, Casey Kotchman and Josh Wilson all struck out multiple times, with Kotchman going down on strikes three times against Liriano and four times in the game. The Mariners managed just two hits and a pair of walks.
Liriano has now thrown 21 scoreless innings in a row; seven innings of goose eggs in three consecutive starts.
Notes, studs and duds after the jump!
- Liriano threw 109 pitches to get through seven innings today, and on the occasions where he didn't register and out by strikeout induced nine groundball outs compared to just one in the air.
- Pitch selection: 60 fastballs (55%), 36 sliders (33%) and 13 changeups (12%).
- Strikeout pitches: 2 fastballs, 1 changeup, 8 sliders.
- Valencia's two hits mean he's back up to .388. He's also starting to rake in the extra-base hits, collecting all eight of his doubles as well as his homer in his last 15 games.
- Jason Repko ripped a hard double off the left-center field wall early in the game, just missing his third home run by a matter of feet.
- Jon Rauch and Matt Guerrier pitched the eighth and ninth innings respectively, each striking out two in perfect innings.
Francisco Liriano: 7 IP, 2 H, 11 K, 2 BB, 0 R, .407 WPA
Jason Kubel: 2-for-4, 2B, 3 RBI, R, .166 WPA
Delmon Young: 1-for-3, 2B, R, .129 WPA
Ichiro Suzuki: 2-for-13 in the series, 5 strikeouts