Alright, that title is really just a joke, but you never know when some idiot baseball pundit or writer will give the "crown" to Francisco Liriano. However, it is clear that Liriano is a phenomenal talent that is quickly getting a grasp on the concept of pitching. Tonight, though he walked four batters, he had a no-hitter through 5 and 1/3 innings before a disputed call that gave a single to Orlando Cabrera. (Replays clearly showed that the throw beat Cabrera.) Most importantly, Liriano struck out only four and showed that he could dominate a game without striking everyone out. Liriano induced 12 groundouts and one fly ball out. When he needed them, like in the sixth with runners at first and third with one out, he got his strikeouts, just the way Johan Santana does.
Since moving into the rotation, Liriano is 3-0 with a 0.56 ERA, having allowed 7 hits in 16 innings while striking out 15 and walking 8. Obviously, his control isn't great yet and he has some improvements to make, but those are stellar numbers. The great thing is knowing that Liriano may be the staff ace when the Twins open their new stadium in 2010. His presence in the rotation has been one of the few positives in this frustrating season. He's a regular reminder to us fans that the future remains bright for the Twins.
Same goes for Joe Mauer, who raised his average to .359 after going 3 for 5 with two doubles and two RBIs. He now owns a amazing .359/.420/.494 line, adding up to a .916 OPS. The last time I can remember a Twins player even competing for a batting title after two months was Doug Mientkiewicz, who battled with Manny Ramirez in early 2001. The great thing about Mauer, though, is he's good enough to actually win the thing. Just like Liriano, it is extremely exciting to think about Mauer being in the starting lineup when that stadium opens.
Of course, there is always something disappointing going on to get in the way of a 7-1 victory. Unfortunately, the Twins defense still looks awful and shaky at all times. Tony Batista blew a throw early on and Nick Punto a ball away to allow the only Angels run of the game. You gotta wonder how many games they can win if they keep sending these guys out nightly and do nothing about the situation.
Even more unlucky for the Twins, they face Barry Zito tonight. The Twins haven't been as awful this year against left-handers as they have in the past, but it could be a challenge. Especially if Gardy and crew continue to trot out players the likes of Juan Castro and Batista.
Boof vs. Barry tonight in Oakland. Who ya got?