Liriano struggles in loss to White Sox

Liriano struggles in loss to White Sox

CHICAGO -- Twins catcher Mike Redmond has caught both of Francisco Liriano's two starts this season.

The first one the club felt was a decent outing for Liriano: four runs over seven innings against the Mariners, considering the nerves of Opening Day and the way that he was throwing the ball.

But in Saturday's 8-0 loss to the White Sox, where temperatures hovered near 40 degrees at first pitch and the wind was blowing hard at U.S. Cellular Field, Redmond didn't feel like the results necessarily reflected the type of stuff that Liriano possessed during his outing.

"From his last start to this start, the numbers aren't going to tell the whole story," Redmond said. "The conditions make it so tough to throw strikes and to keep pounding the strike zone. When you can't feel the ball when you pick it up, it's tough to throw. But I thought he pitched great."

The numbers certainly were far from ideal for Liriano in his 4 2/3 innings against the White Sox on Saturday. The Twins left-hander battled his command throughout his outing, allowing five runs on six hits while walking four batters.

That command particularly was difficult to find in the fifth, when the Sox tagged him for four runs.

The trouble started for Liriano when Corky Miller led off the fifth with a single to left. A walk and a single later, the bases were loaded with one out. Unlike some of his previous innings, when Liriano was able to work his way out of trouble (like in the first, when he walked one batter and hit another), this time, things just seemed to fall apart.

Liriano issued back-to-back walks with the bases loaded, one to Jermaine Dye and the other to Paul Konerko, scoring two runs.

"I think I just lost the zone," Liriano said. "I couldn't throw a strike."

The outing continued to unravel for Liriano against the next two batters he faced. A potential double-play ball hit to Joe Crede at third was bobbled, as he recorded just one out while allowing another run to score. Then Alexei Ramirez completed the damage with an RBI single to right, giving Chicago a 5-0 lead.

"He was all around the plate," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Liriano's outing. "He had the one inning where it didn't go his way. He was just missing with some close pitches and ended up walking a few guys...It just didn't turn out to be a good day for him."

The feeling in the clubhouse was that Liriano's troubles might have been aided by an inconsistent strike zone. Whatever the case, Liriano looked like he allowed the non-strike calls to get to him on the mound -- particularly once the bases-loaded walks started coming. As he exited the field, Liriano got back to the dugout and pounded his glove on the bench.

"I was just missing real close and got frustrated a little bit," Liriano said. "I was trying to make some good pitches and it didn't work."

But while it was a difficult day on the mound for Liriano, the Twins left-hander wasn't helped by the fact that for his second straight start, he got little offensive support. After Minnesota managed just one run in Liriano's season debut on Opening Day against the Mariners, this time it couldn't even scratch out a single run. It marked the club's second shutout in six games this season.

Facing 2005 American League Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon on Saturday, in his first start of the season, the Twins found problems getting anything going against the veteran pitcher.

Colon, who had bone chips removed from his right elbow in October, delivered six shutout innings and held the Twins to just three hits. With a fastball that barely reaches 90 mph, Colon relied mostly on a devastating sinker. That sinker combined with some shadows caused by the mid-afternoon game made it difficult for the Twins all day to see the ball well.

"Obviously, he's not throwing with the same velocity he used to throw with," Redmond said. "We actually came up through the Minor Leagues together, and he used to throw 96, 97 mph with a big curveball. The curveball is gone, but he still throws strikes. He goes out there and pounds the strike zone."

The Twins' best scoring threat did not come until Colon (1-0) was out of the game. In the seventh, Minnesota loaded the bases off reliever Octavio Dotel thanks to Carlos Gomez's single to center and back-to-back walks by Nick Punto and Denard Span. But Matt Thornton replaced Dotel and got Alexi Casilla to ground out to first to end the inning.

Minnesota had one more chance in the eighth off Sox reliever Mike MacDougal when it put runners on first and third with one out in the inning. But MacDougal got pinch-hitter Brendan Harris to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.

By the time the Twins even batted in the eighth, though, the damage had already been done. The Twins entered the inning trailing 8-0 after Philip Humber struggled through the seventh and gave up three runs on four hits in just two-thirds of an inning.

And now the Twins will enter Sunday's game against Chicago needing a victory in order to pick up the series win.

"It was just a tough day for us," Gardenhire said. "We didn't ever really get anything going. We only had a couple of chances offensively to get a big hit and we didn't get it."

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.