Liriano wins 10th game of year

Twins' Liriano earns 10th win

ARLINGTON -- The All-Star Game may not be taking place until Tuesday night, but those in attendance at Ameriquest Field for Saturday night's game saw one All-Star-caliber pitcher that won't be taking the mound in Pittsburgh.

Twins rookie Francisco Liriano has clearly demonstrated all season long just how dominating he can be on the mound, and he did so again on Saturday. Liriano threw seven scoreless innings against the Rangers, while allowing just four hits in Minnesota's 4-0 victory over Texas.

Liriano was not selected to the American League All-Star squad, but he was given another chance to earn his way there as part of the Final Vote contest. Fans, however, didn't select him to be the AL candidate for the last spot on the roster, and thus, Liriano will not be present for this year's Midsummer Classic.

But there is no doubt to any of those that have watched the Twins recently that Liriano is All-Star material.

"That's the nation's loss right there, the world's loss, that they aren't going to get to see that young man pitch in the All-Star Game, because he's definitely one of the best pitchers in this league at 22," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said after the outing. "Mistakes are made [in the selection]. Let's just hope they don't make any more mistakes like this with Liriano."

Having picked up three straight losses after their 11-game win streak, the Twins were in desperate need of a lift and that's exactly what Liriano provided.

Even on a night when the rookie left-hander admitted that he didn't have his best stuff, feeling a little tired and dealing with the effects of pink eye, he certainly wowed the crowd with his performance. Liriano struck out eight Rangers, and only twice did he allow runners to get into scoring position.

The two jams that he found himself in came in his final two innings. In the sixth, Liriano walked the first two batters before getting a double-play ground ball and another groundout.

In the seventh inning, Liriano said he had some trouble seeing a bit due to the pink eye in his right eye. But he managed to escape the inning unscathed. After giving up two straight singles, Liriano got two more groundouts to get out of the inning.

"The kid is unbelievable," Gardenhire said. "That's a great hitting team over there, and he shut them down pretty good."

With the way things were going on the mound, all the offense Minnesota would need came in the fifth inning after both starters had dueled to keep the game scoreless up to that point.

It was Torii Hunter that finally broke the scoreless stretch in the top of the fifth inning when he delivered a 424-foot home run off Rangers starter John Rheinecker, his 14th of the year, to give the Twins a 1-0 lead.

"I saw the curveball hanging and decided to do something with it," Hunter said.

The Twins scored a total of three runs in the inning, and they all came with two outs. Back-to-back singles to left field by Shannon Stewart and Lew Ford off Rheinecker (4-3) followed Hunter's homer to put runners at first and second. Shortstop Jason Bartlett then belted a hard shot to the left-field wall for a two-run double to give the Twins a 3-0 advantage. It was just one part of a great night for Bartlett, as he recorded two putouts and four assists on the night as well.

"I thought my shortstop was outstanding out there today," Gardenhire said. "He's had some really good ballgames for us lately and another good one today. He was all over the field and made some great plays, including on offense by driving in some key runs."

The Twins would add one more run in the ninth inning. Justin Morneau extended his career-high hitting streak to 15 games with a single to right. Advancing to second on a groundout by Hunter, Morneau would then score on a Stewart RBI single to left to put the Twins up 4-0.

Having a few runs to work with, the Twins bullpen completed the club's fourth shutout of the year by holding the Rangers scoreless over the final two innings. Juan Rincon allowed just one hit in the eighth and after giving up a double to lead off the ninth, closer Joe Nathan retired the next three batters.

But there was no doubt to any on the Twins ballclub that the story again was that of Liriano delivering another quality outing.

"Like every other start, it was filthy, man," Hunter said.

With his 1.83 ERA and 88 1/3 innings, Liriano now qualifies as the ERA leader for the Major Leagues. He is the Twins' first 10-game winner of the season, and he has picked up a victory in each of his last six starts. Liriano also leads all Major League rookies with 102 strikeouts on the season.

Still, he won't be at the All-Star Game to show off that talent.

"I'm not disappointed," Liriano said of the snub. "I'll just keep working hard to see if I can make it next year. I wish I could have made it, but I'll keep on doing what I'm doing."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.