Game 7: Liriano solid but late error dooms Twins
Left-hander Francisco Liriano was solid, but the offense couldn’t get much going against Tampa Bay, which improved to 1-2 against Minnesota in Grapefruit League play.
What went right: Liriano faced the minimum, allowing just one hit over three scoreless innings. He also struck out five and didn’t issue a walk. He also didn’t have to depend on his slider for results, as he threw it just four times in 34 pitches.
But Liriano wasn’t the only pitcher with impressive results, as Liam Hendriks, Scott Diamond, Daryl Thompson, Jeff Manship and Brendan Wise each threw a scoreless inning for the Twins. Manship was particularly impressive, as he struck out the side in the seventh.
Center fielder Denard Span went 1-for-2 with a walk and two stolen bases to pace the offense. Josh Willingham, J.R. Towles, Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Aaron Bates each picked up a hit for the Twins. Bates also made a nice diving play at first in the ninth to save a run from scoring.
What went wrong: Hughes, making his first appearance at second base since suffering a sprained right shoulder in a home-plate collision in early March, made a throwing error that led to the lone run of the game scoring in the ninth.
Right-hander Carlos Gutierrez walked Hak-Ju Lee with two outs before he stole second with Tim Beckham at the plate. Gutierrez appeared to get out of the inning with Beckham hitting a grounder to second, but Hughes threw the ball into the dirt to allow Lee to score from second.
On the next play, Nishioka couldn’t handle a ball hit to his right by Cole Figueroa, but it was ruled a single. The Twins were then lucky to get out of the inning without any more damage, as Bates robbed Brad Coon of a run-scoring hit on a diving play at first to end the inning.
Because of the botched plays behind Gutierrez, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said it wasn’t Gutierrez’s fault for allowing an unearned run to get saddled with the loss.
“Today he threw the ball great but we just missed plays behind him,” Gardenhire said. “This is one of our top prospects, arm-wise, velocity-wise; he’s a big, strong kid. We need him to stay in the zone and keep the pace going. His last two outings it’s kinda what he’s been able to do.”
What they said: “Neither team had much offense to talk about so let’s call that good pitching,” Gardenhire joked. “Let’s not get into the negatives.”
What’s next: Right-hander Jason Marquis starts against the Cardinals tomorrow at Hammond Stadium. It marks his second start of Grapefruit League play, as he allowed four runs on three hits over 1 2/3 innings against the Red Sox on Monday. Joe Mauer is also expected to DH. Right-hander Adam Wainwright, who missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, starts for the Cardinals for the first time since Sept. 24, 2010.
Injury update: Twins infielder Luke Hughes made his first appearance at second base after serving as designated hitter twice in spring. And although he made a throwing error in the ninth, he told Gardenhire he’s healthy and ready to play in the infield.