Liriano cools off White Sox
By Dave Campbell, AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS -- Francisco Liriano gave the sagging Minnesota Twins a big lift on the mound in a 7-4 victory over Chicago, and faulty fielding by the White Sox on Friday led to the end of their nine-game winning streak.
Liriano (7-7) left with two outs in the eighth inning to a standing ovation from the fans on a warm and muggy night, deprived lately of this kind of dominant performance. The Twins had lost Liriano's last five starts.
The White Sox made four errors, and Gavin Floyd (5-8) gave up four runs in the fourth inning.
Jesse Crain got his first save by getting the last two outs, striking out Paul Konerko on three pitches.
Going 26-6 in their previous 32 games, the White Sox were thriving with strong pitching, fundamental hitting and decent defense -- hardly the homer-happy team they used to be. Manager Ozzie Guillen insisted before the game that every team in the American League can hit, so the defense and pitching will be what determines the race. This game proved his point.
Joe Mauer's two-run single in the ninth gave Jon Rauch a five-run pad he needed in the bottom of the inning, when he walked three and surrendered two hits before being pulled for Crain with one out and the bases loaded.
The White Sox played without Carlos Quentin, scratched from the lineup because of a bruised right wrist, and they could've used another right-handed slugger against Liriano. He struck out eight and allowed just six hits, even making a couple of smooth stops of powerful bouncers back to the mound for outs in the first and the seventh.
The Twins emerged from the All-Star break in dire need of a turnaround from each of their starting pitchers not named Carl Pavano. Kevin Slowey's problems persisted in Thursday's loss, but Liriano delivered -- with his second-longest outing since April 27.
The first test was to survive the first inning without giving up a run, which he did despite a bunt single and a walk. The left-hander had been scored on 15 times in the first inning of his last seven starts, including six in the past three.
The next challenge followed Gordon Beckham's two-out, two-strike double in the fifth, stopping a string of nine straight batters retired. After Juan Pierre's RBI single and another hit, Liriano struck out Alex Rios to finish the inning.
The final hurdle came in the eighth, and reliever Matt Guerrier helped him clear it by getting Andruw Jones to ground out and end the inning. The speedy Pierre drew a leadoff walk, but Alexei Ramirez hit into a double play. Rios reached on a wild pitch after swinging at an elusive third strike, and Konerko cut the lead to 4-2 with a sharp double.
Floyd was tagged for only one earned run in that error-filled fourth, but he walked three in five innings and most of the seven hits against him were hard. Third baseman Dayan Viciedo had a routine grounder miss his glove and glance off his leg to load the bases before J.J. Hardy's RBI single.
Denard Span's slow roller to second earned an RBI single for the speedy leadoff man, but Beckham tried to barehand the ball and make a same-motion flip to first. It slithered away from Konerko, allowing another run to score.
NOTES: Guillen, asked about trade-deadline conversations with general manager Kenny Williams, expressed his respect for Williams, the boss with whom he has clashed at times. "The only thing I would never do in baseball is be a general manager," Guillen said, "because I don't have the patience. I don't have the passion." ... Twins starter Scott Baker, whose last turn came on July 8 and isn't set to pitch again until Monday because of the All-Star break, threw a full bullpen session to test his sore elbow. Baker "felt fantastic," manager Ron Gardenhire said.