Francisco Liriano continues to prove something each time he pitches: there should have been no doubt he'd be great. Now 6-1 with a 2.16 ERA, Liriano struck out 11 Pirates in seven innings as the Twins got a win on the road last night. Besides the two-run home run he gave up to Jack Wilson (shouldn't have happened, considering the walk to pitcher Ian Snell was ridiculous and there were borderline pitches in the Wilson at-bat as well), he was absolutely nasty. His slider had the kind of break I haven't seen from a lefty since Randy Johnson in his prime. It has that "whip"-like effect, as it flies down and in to righties. If you watched him throw to Pirates star Jason Bay, he made him look pretty bad as Bay weakly swung threw Liriano's slider. Most impressively, when he had the pressure on him in the seventh, clinging to a 3-2 lead, he was able to get a big K to end the threat. Reminds me of another guy on the staff, Mr. Santana. The 1-2 punch he and Santana have given the Twins is huge; with Johan pitching on Sunday, it's entirely possible the Twins can take the series.
As for the bats, the same guys continue to produce. That is, the youngsters. Michael Cuddyer got things started with an RBI double, his 35th RBI of the season. Cuddyer, now with 10 HRs and 35 RBI, projects to have 28 HR and 97 RBI by the end of the season. Though it's certainly possible he'll hit a major slump some time, in June, these are numbers no one was expecting from him. He's been a pretty consistent force since jumping into the regular lineup in late April.
Same with Justin Morneau, who went 1-for-3 and picked up his 52nd RBI with a deep sacrifice fly in the seventh. The sac fly was impressive simply because, for one, it was on an 0-2 pitch from a sharp-looking Snell and two, because it was nearly a home run or extra-base hit to the opposite field. Watching him drive balls consistently has been a pleasure the past few weeks. Mauer, who appeared to be slumping a bit this week, went 2-for-4 and raised his average to .381.
With their fourth straight win, the Twins appear to be getting on a roll. If that's the case, they may yet have a slight chance at competing. With the way the Sox and Tigers have played, it's not likely, but if these young guys can go out, compete, and put up a good record this year, then they'll have tons of confidence going into next year. If anything, that's one of the best scenarios the Twins can hope for now.
Boof Bonser takes the hill tonight and I suspect he may have another mediocre or rough start ahead of him. Eventually, with all the roster moves, my hope is that by the end of the month, Scott Baker will be back in the rotation, Pat Neshek will be in the bullpen, and we won't be speaking of Rondell White anymore. (Another lucky walk with the bases loaded and an RBI are not exactly convincing reasons to keep a guy around.)
By the way, any Twins fans feeling like this team has made insane management decisions should check this out: The Angels sent Jered Weaver, of a 4-0 record and 1.37 ERA, to Triple-A to bring Bartolo Colon off the DL. It should be noted that his brother, Jeff, is 3-9 with a 5.96 ERA and the Angels were considering moving him to the bullpen. An obviously asinine move like this should give Twins fans comfort and drive Angel fans insane.