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Published: Saturday, 9/6/2008

Liriano lights up Detroit

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Tigers outfielder Marcus Thames is greeted at the dugout after hitting a solo homer in the fifth frame of a 10-2 loss to the Twins. Tigers outfielder Marcus Thames is greeted at the dugout after hitting a solo homer in the fifth frame of a 10-2 loss to the Twins.
JIM MONE / AP Enlarge

MINNEAPOLIS Cruddy.

That s how Minnesota pitching coach Rick Anderson described Francisco Liriano s warm-up before last night s game against Detroit.

But it was a good omen, he added.

You warm up cruddy, and it makes you focus a little more, Anderson said after watching Liriano throw seven solid innings in the Twins 10-2 win over the Tigers.

Justin Morneau hit a grand slam and Delmon Young added a homer of his own and an RBI double as Minnesota returning home after a 14-game road trip snapped its three-game losing streak. But the talk in the clubhouse after Minnesota s offensive outburst was Liriano, who is 5-0 since returning the lineup last month and is shaping up to be the Twins most intimidating pitcher as they try to keep pace with Chicago in the AL Central.

Liriano (5-3) had a season-high nine strikeouts.

It s almost like, I don t want to go this far, but almost like (Johan) Santana was, Morneau said of Liriano s changeup.

The 24-year-old lefty may not be quite on the same level as his former Cy Young teammate. But he s definitely showing the form that earned him a spot in the All-Star game in 2006 before arm problems cut short his rookie year.

In April, he gave up 13 runs in three starts before being sent to the minors to shake off the rust after recovering from Tommy John surgery. But in his seven starts since being called back up, Liriano has surrendered only eight runs.

Morneau, the former AL MVP, hit his fourth-career grand slam and second this season. The shot gave Minnesota a five-run lead in the fifth inning.

Nice way to come home, manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Liriano did give up two homers to Marcus Thames before leaving in the eighth with runners at first and second with no outs. Matt Guerrier relieved without further damage.

I hit two home runs, but we didn t win the game, so you tip your hat to him, Thames said of Liriano.

Armando Galarraga (12-5), who allowed only three hits but struggled with his control early, walked the bases loaded for the second time of the night in the fifth before Morneau s grand slam gave Minnesota a 6-1 lead.

We walked too many guys and we struck out too many times. That pretty much sums it up, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

The Twins added four more in the seventh when Joe Mauer s RBI single drove in Alexi Casilla, Young doubled to left to score Mauer, and Brian Buscher added a two-run single.

Galarraga lasted six innings, walking a season-high six batters while striking out four.



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