On Friday evening Francisco Liriano struck out more batters than any Twins pitcher since Johan Santana fanned 17 Rangers back in August of 2007: 15 times Oakland batters fell away, victim to the strikeout. Liriano was nigh on untouchable for a vast majority of his evening, recording eight of his first nine outs on the K. Only in the fourth inning did he and his defense stumble. Sadly, that was enough.
A Jemile Weeks single preceeded another strikeout, as Liriano got Josh Reddick took a hopeless hack on a slider in the dirt. Yeonis Cespedes then reached when Denard Span couldn't haul in a fly ball, which could have been the moment the game hinged on. It's easy to lay the blame there, even though Liriano still had ample opportunity to get out of the inning. But he walked Chris Carter, and then Jonny Gomes pulled a hanging slider into the seats. Four runs. Three-run deficit.
Still, Liriano didn't give in. He got his next two outs, including Brandon Inge watching a slider bend through the zone for strike three.
Joe Mauer singled and Josh Willingham blasted his second homer of the night in the bottom half of the frame, pulling the Twins to within one. That was as close as they'd get.
Liriano continued to mow through the Oakland lineup, recording five more strikeouts before sitting down after eight innings with a killer line. Sadly his offense couldn't pick him up after his one bad innings, although they did come close to tying the game in the eighth. Alex Burnett surrendered a pair of runs in the ninth to give us our final score.
When your pitcher strikes out 15, you expect to win the game. When that doesn't happen you have to be disappointed. But looking at the big picture: Liriano announced his presence to the rest of the baseball world with authority on Friday night. That's the performance he's capable of. If opposing GMs are willing to shy away from that, then they might be trading for the best pitcher with the best value on the market.
Notes, studs, and duds after the jump.
- Eleven of Liriano's fifteen strikeouts came off the slider. Three were from the changeup while just one was off the fastball.
- Three strikeouts were called looking.
- Willingham's homers were numbers 20 and 21 on the season. Yeah, he's definitely getting to 30.
- All of Minnesota's hits came from their 1 through 6 batters, with anyone hitting 7-8-9 combining to go 0-for-11.
- Four hits and two runs in two thirds of an inning for Burnett were relieved by a strikeout from Casey Fien.
- Span just didn't have a good game. In addition to dropping that fly ball in the fourth, A.J. Griffin picked him off first base and Bud Norries threw him out trying to steal second.
- Two more hits for Mauer. Just another day at the office.