Liriano fans 10 but Twins lose again, 2-1 to O’s

Published 9:02 am Thursday, July 19, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS — Francisco Liriano has 25 strikeouts over his last two starts for Minnesota, the most of any such stretch in his career.

He also has two losses.

Adam Jones hit a two-run homer in the first inning against Liriano, and the Baltimore Orioles hung on to beat the Twins 2-1 Wednesday night.

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Josh Willingham’s home run in the fourth was all Minnesota could manage against Tommy Hunter (4-4), who stabilized Baltimore’s stumbling rotation with a solid performance that lasted one out into the eighth inning.

Liriano (3-9) recovered after giving up the ball Jones crushed into the back of the second deck in left field, striking out 10 batters in six innings.

“Going out there and having a good outing every time I go out there, it’s a good feeling,” Liriano said.

Said Jones: “I was just looking for fastballs. He’s a guy that has a 94 mile per hour fastball that you do not want to miss.”

This was the third time in his career that Liriano posted back-to-back double-digit strikeout totals. His ERA in 10 starts since returning from the bullpen is 2.84, and he has 77 strikeouts in that span, though he has only three wins to show for it.

“Frankie has that ability. Early on, it wasn’t Frankie. Now it’s the true Frankie,” said bench coach Scott Ullger, who took over in the fifth inning when manager Ron Gardenhire went home with a stomach virus.

With the trade deadline looming at the end of the month, Liriano’s contract expiring after the season and another handful of scouts from around the majors in attendance, the left-hander didn’t disappoint.

“He’s a smart kid. He knows what’s going on,” Ullger said.

Liriano walked three but allowed only four hits. The possibility of being dealt, he insisted, hasn’t bothered him.

“Trying not to listen to it, you know?” Liriano said. “No matter if I worry about it, if I don’t worry about it, it’s not going to change anything. So just happy to be here, and whatever happens, happens. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

The Twins had a bunch of chances to hand him a victory.

“Hopefully the rest of the year we give him some run support,” right fielder Ben Revere said. “He’s going to take us home, so we’re going to start cooking up something. We know when he’s on the mound he’s going to give us a chance to win.”

Joe Mauer grounded into a double play to end the first inning, and Revere did the same in the third after consecutive singles to start that frame. Hunter helped himself with a slick between-the-legs pick-up of Revere’s sharp comebacker.

Then in the seventh inning, with two on and one out, Hunter retired the next two batters on harmless pop-ups.

Hunter struck out Jamey Carroll to start the eighth, and Orioles manager Buck Showalter brought left-hander Troy Patton in with three straight lefties at the top of the Twins’ lineup. Denard Span walked, Revere singled and Mauer moved them over with a soft groundout. Willingham was intentionally walked to load the bases and bring up Justin Morneau, who bounced out to second base.

Hunter allowed only six hits to the Twins, who scored 25 runs over the first two games of the series and have the second-best batting average in baseball since June 1. The right-hander struck out just one but didn’t walk anybody, giving the bullpen a much-needed break and helping the Orioles win for only the second time in their last eight games.

Jim Johnson shook off his past two shaky appearances to post his 27th save in 29 attempts despite yielding a leadoff single to Trevor Plouffe. Brian Dozier popped a bunt up high enough that first baseman Mark Reynolds raced in for a diving catch for the first out.