MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -Francisco Liriano is staying positive while most of the Minnesota Twins' rotation continues to struggle.
He just wants to keep going.
``We've been struggling a little bit, but we have to keep playing,' he said. ``We can pitch a little bit better, but I think we're going to be all right.'
Liriano was more than all right on Wednesday, pitching seven innings as the Twins snapped the Cleveland Indians' six-game winning streak with a 6-0 victory.
Liriano (8-7) allowed 10 baserunners but stayed poised and benefited from three double plays, like in the fifth when Jayson Nix's bouncer back to the mound with the bases loaded led to a rare 1-2-3 inning-ender. The left-hander struck out eight, including rookie Carlos Santana with runners at the corners to finish the third inning.
``He took care of business with runners on, and that's what good pitchers do,' said Shelley Duncan, who grounded into a 4-6-3 double play with two on and none out in the second.
With three switch-hitters and six righties in the lineup, the young Indians were ready for Liriano, who has not allowed a home run to a left-handed hitter since April 6, 2009. He also has walked only one lefty all season.
After a couple of long high foul balls to left that hooked away from the pole, Cleveland's Matt LaPorta whiffed at a high fastball to strike out in the fourth.
``Back in 2006 he looked like a freak to everybody. He was just flat-out overpowering,' Indians manager Manny Acta said. ``But he looks good. He looks like a top of the rotation type of guy right now to me.'
Delmon Young had three hits and three RBIs, making up for a baserunning blunder during Minnesota's four-run third. He was thrown out at the plate by a few yards trying to score from second on Michael Cuddyer's RBI single.
J.J. Hardy picked him up with a two-run double later in the inning against Jake Westbrook (6-6), who struggled with his control in what could be one of his final starts with Cleveland.
Westbrook is one of several starting pitchers around the majors who could be fetched in a trade, a market the Twins might need to tap into to defend their division title. But the right-hander allowed four runs and six hits with five walks in six innings in this one, not exactly enhancing his value.
``Have to do a little better job there minimizing the damage,' Westbrook said, adding: ``I felt great today. That was the frustrating part.'
Though the Twins still have plenty of pitching problems to solve, Liriano's first two turns of the second half have at least served to solidify the front of the rotation.
``To me it's another game. I'm not trying to put pressure on myself,' Liriano said. ``I'm just trying to go out there and do my job. It's a great feeling.'
Perhaps most importantly, both performances followed Twins losses. Of their six shutouts this season, Liriano has started four.
``This team can do a lot of things if we get pitching like that,' said third base coach Scott Ullger, who ran the team while manager Ron Gardenhire tended to a personal matter.
This series against the Indians started a stretch of 13 straight games against losing teams, but that doesn't matter as much as the Twins rediscovering their swagger and refocusing on fundamentals - like baserunning - that have previously made them so successful.
Starting Thursday, they'll play 17 of their next 20 games on the road, where they're 20-25.
``It was a good win, especially with how hot they're playing right now,' Young said.
NOTES: Indians LHP Aaron Laffey will have an MRI on Thursday. He has been fighting arm fatigue. ... Indians OF Austin Kearns sat out for the second straight game after being pulled Monday because of right knee soreness. ... Minnesota's Joe Mauer was on the bench to rest, the day after his botched, widely panned bunt attempt. ``I really can't recall a No. 3 hitter doing that, but stranger things have happened,' Ullger said. ``Whether that was the right thing or the wrong thing, he's just trying to help us win.' ... The Twins have yet to be swept in 16 series at Target Field. ... Jim Thome walked four times for the Twins. ... Anthony Slama made his major league debut for the Twins in the ninth, striking out two. He has a mustache he's been growing since April, before Carl Pavano made the look popular in Minnesota. ``It's good to see some real men in here,' Slama said.
The Associated Press News Service
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