Liriano comes up short in pitchers' duel

Liriano comes up short in pitchers' duel

Liriano comes up short in pitchers' duel
KANSAS CITY -- It was a good news, bad news night for the Twins on Tuesday against the Royals.

The good news was that Francisco Liriano turned in his second straight solid outing since being demoted to the bullpen after struggling to open the year. Liriano allowed just one run on four hits over six strong innings after he tossed six scoreless innings against the A's last week.

But the bad news was that it wasn't enough, as he was outdueled by left-hander Bruce Chen in a 1-0 loss at Kauffman Stadium that marked the sixth time Minnesota has been shut out this year.

"It's bad that we lost but just going out there and giving my team a chance to win a ballgame makes me feel better," Liriano said. "I know we lost and everything but you have to give some credit to Chen. He was throwing the ball pretty good tonight and locating."

Liriano also walked just one and struck out eight batters, including four in the fourth inning to become just the second Twins player to accomplish the rare feat. He joined Scott Baker, who struck out four Brewers in an inning on June 15, 2008.

Liriano struck out Mike Moustakas, Jeff Francoeur, Eric Hosmer and Brayan Pena that frame, as Francoeur reached on a wild pitch on the third strike.

"It's all about location," Liriano said. "I think when you locate a ball where you want it that's the results you can get. So it's all about location and keeping the ball down."

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire liked what he saw from Liriano, who has a 0.75 ERA over his last two starts after posting a 9.45 ERA in his first six starts before making five relief appearances in attempt to get him back on track.

"He's throwing the ball over the plate, and that's the bottom line," Gardenhire said. "You throw it over, you work ahead in the count. You see his stuff, even when he got behind. He was two-seaming the heck out of it and it was just diving; those guys were swinging and missing. Once he got in some favorable counts, the slider was just disappearing. I think you could ask those guys on the other side; that was some nasty stuff. That's what we hope to continue to have. That gives us an opportunity to win baseball games."

The Royals scored just once off Liriano on an RBI single from Pena in the second inning after Hosmer reached on a fielder's choice and stole second base. Liriano admitted he didn't pay enough attention to Hosmer, and it ended up coming back to haunt him.

"With the type of stuff Liriano had tonight, any opportunity you get you can't pass up," said Hosmer, who ran on the first pitch. "For me it was just kind of do-or-die to get in scoring position. It was just the risk we were taking right there."

It was enough for Chen, who tossed seven scoreless innings against the Twins. The veteran lefty gave up just four hits and didn't walk a batter.

The Twins only reached second base twice against Chen, as Brian Dozier was stranded there in the fifth after a two-out double and Darin Mastroianni was left there after singling and stealing second with two outs in the sixth.

"He changed speeds well, kept us off-balance," said Denard Span, who struck out twice against Chen. "He threw a lot of different arm angles, threw over the top, three-quarters, and a couple times sidearm with two strikes, so he mixed it up, and he's the type of pitcher where when he's on, he can do what he did tonight."

The Twins saw a late rally in the ninth against Jonathan Broxton fall just short, as Trevor Plouffe hit a liner into the gap with two runners on and two out but Jarrod Dyson made a running catch in left-center to give Minnesota just its second loss in its last eight games.

"I thought he hit it pretty good but Dyson out there runs it down," Gardenhire said. "He's pretty quick, pretty good. I was hoping it would get to the gap, but Dyson had it covered pretty good."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.