Francisco Liriano once again proved last night that he is an unstoppable pitcher in so many ways. The only problem is that the Twins and their offense failed to follow. The embarrassing part is that it came against Zach Miner, a finesse righty who come into the game with two straight awful starts against two of the worst offenses in the league in KC and Oakland. Miner hass had a fine year, but he didn't exactly come in with much momentum and the Twins didn't seem to fight him the way they had against their previous 42 or so opponents.
Instead, a brilliant Liriano outing was wasted. Eight innings, three hits, three walks, two runs, and 12 strikeouts gets put on the wall with his other two great outings in July, against Milwaukee and his previous outing against Cleveland. All in all, he went 4-1 in July with a 1.51 ERA and 55 Ks in 41 2/3 innings, while only allowing 22 hits and 13 walks. Pretty amazing.
For those of you keeping track with the Cy Young award run, that means Liriano is now third in strikeouts, just two behind Scott Kazmir and 21 behind our Johan Santana. Lirano 12 wins, is second in winning percentage, and leads the league in ERA (1.96), WHIP (0.96), and BAA (.191). Remember, there was a guy last year in the National League having a year like this, except for with a lot less wins but more publicity. His name is Roger Clemens. And, yes, if you remember, Liriano beat him this year too. The point is this hasn't just been a historically great rookie season, but a historical great season period. His ERA+ is 235 (or, in other words, the league average in the AL is about 4.45). An ERA+ anywhere near or above 200 is incredible.
The modern record was set by Pedro Martinez in 2000 at 285. If Liriano finished on his pace right now, his 235 adjusted ERA would be 11th All-time, behind the great seasons of Pedro (2000), Dutch Leonard (1914), Greg Maddux (1994), Walter Johnson (1913), Maddux (1995), Bob Gibson (1968), Mordecai Brown (1906), Pedro (1999), and Johnson (1912). That would fall in front of the great years of pitchers like Clemens, Christy Mathewson, Lefty Grove, and even good ol' Dwight Gooden in '85.
Of course, its hard to tell if Liriano has even a chance to finish with a 200 adjusted ERA. (200 would be tied for 35th All-time with Dean Chance in 1964) The point is that Liriano is having one of the best seasons we may see in our lifetimes. This would be the best rookie season ever. Realizing that makes this run all the more enjoyable.
As for the game last night, losing to Zach Miner was tough. The bullpen couldn't hold a lead, as Juan Rincon lost the game with a run-scoring single allowed to Twins Killer Craig Monroe in the 10th. Most of the problem was that the offense simply couldn't get it going, which is what got the game to extra innings in the first place. Joe Mauer had an RBI and a hit and Justin Morneau went 2-for-4, but other key guys, like Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, and Jason Tyner couldn't manage a hit in 11 collective at-bats and the Twins simply couldn't get any runners into scoring position.
The biggest failure in that lied on the basepaths, where the Twins runners got caught stealing once, but more importantly, ended rallies with poor baserunning (See Castillo, Luis in the third inning). The question now is whether the Twins can recover tonight against lefty Nate Robertson with Brad Radke on the mound. All I can say is I doubt another pitching duel will occur tonight. Wait until Sunday, when co-ace Santana takes on Jeremy Bonderman.