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Twins 4, A's 0: Liriano's Return to the Rotation a Ringing Success

He's baaaaaaack...hopefully.
He's baaaaaaack...hopefully.

In his first start back in the rotation since he took a break in the bullpen, Francisco Liriano threw six innings of solid ball. When his first pitch of the game sailed past Drew Butera to the backstop, I'm sure there was a collective sigh heard around the state of Minnesota, as Twins fans anticipated another rough game from the former ace. What happened, however, was surprising--and a huge relief to a team with a very sub-par starting rotation--as Liriano threw six innings, only giving up three hits and two walks. Oh, and the best part? He struck out nine (9!) Oakland batters. Perhaps not as impressive, as Oakland has had notorious issues hitting this season, but for a pitcher with equally notorious mental issues while throwing, today's game had to be a big confidence boost. Also noticeable was Liriano's ability to continue to throw good pitches and not lose him composure after giving up a hit or walk--both very good signs for the Twins lefty.

After he almost struck out the side in the 6th inning (a pesky Collin Cowgill fly out to Denard Span preventing all three batters from being retired via strikeout), and throwing just 88 pitches, he was replaced by Alex Burnettin the seventh. Burnett came in and was able to get Josh Donaldson, Kurt Suzuki, and Daric Barton to pop out to end the seventh. In the eighth inning, Burnett did issue a walk to Cliff Pennington, but Jemile Weekslined into a double play, effectively putting a stop to any trouble Burnett could find. Jeff Gray came in to pitch the ninth, and after striking out one, closed out the game for the Twins, sealing a series sweep for the struggling club.

Full recap after the jump.

The Twins offense had its fair share of success today as well, with Josh Willingham hitting his 10th homer of the season off Tyson Ross in the bottom of the 5th inning. Joe Mauer, well-known lazy guy, didn't get any hits today, but managed to draw three walks. His average is still sitting at .296, but his OBP so far this season is a cool .402. Denard Span, Brian Dozier, and Alexi Casilla all managed to get a hit today as well, with Willingham and Dozier's 1st inning singles scoring Denard Span and Joe Mauer, getting the Twins half of their runs for the day. The others, obviously, came from Willingham's home run in the 5th. Not a stunning day for the offense by any means, but on a day when the pitching shined, it was more than enough.

-Francisco Liriano. Boy, it sure feels good to be able to say that one again.
-Alex Burnett/Jeff Gray. Combined for 3 scoreless innings, with some very effective pitching.
-Josh Willingham. The Willinghammer sure is fun to watch when he's hot.
-Joe Mauer. Three walks is weirdly impressive.

Duds-though I'm hesistant, since it was a win...

-Justin Morneau, Drew Butera, Jamey Carroll. All 0-for-3 on the day.

Today's game marks just the second shutout for the Twins this season.

The Twins have an off day tomorrow, and will face the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field at 6:05 pm CST on Friday. The team is currently 4-8 against divisional opponents.