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Liriano solid on hill again

Indians shortstop Asdruqal Cabrera, top, leaps over Denard Span of the Twins after a force at second on a double play hit into by Orlando Hudson in the first inning Wednesday at Target Field in Minneapolis. (Associated Press)

By Jon Krawczynski, AP Baseball Writer

MINNEAPOLIS -- Francisco Liriano is looking a lot like his old, nasty self early this season.

Liriano struck out six in eight scoreless innings to lead the Minnesota Twins to a 6-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday night.

Liriano (2-1) allowed six hits and walked two and Michael Cuddyer had a homer, a triple and three RBIs for the Twins, who are off to an 11-4 start thanks partly to Liriano regaining his form from 2006 when he was an All-Star.

David Huff (1-2) gave up only three hits in six innings for the Indians. But he walked six and allowed four runs before Aaron Laffey gave up a two-run triple to Cuddyer in the eighth that put the game out of reach.

The Twins have used 11 walks and sterling starting pitching to take the first two games of the series.

Liriano was a nearly unhittable rookie in 2006 when he went 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 121 innings. But he missed all of 2007 after having Tommy John surgery and has been slow to work his way back.

He went 5-13 with a 5.80 ERA last season and there was a talk about him moving from the rotation to closer when Joe Nathan went down in spring training.

All that talk is over now. One day after Kevin Slowey went eight innings in a 5-1 win, Liriano dropped his ERA to 1.29 with an impressive performance.

Brendan Harris had an RBI-single and Denard Span followed with another single that scored two runs for a 3-0 lead in the second. Cuddyer hit a solo homer to right field in the sixth.

With Liriano humming right along against an overmatched Indians offense, that was plenty for the Twins.

The lefty retired 10 of the first 12 hitters he faced, then worked out of a bases loaded jam in the fifth when he got Asdrubal Cabrera to ground into an inning-ending double play.

He wasn't quite as sharp with his fastball as he was in his previous start, when he struck out eight in seven scoreless innings of a victory over Boston. But then again, he didn't have to be.

The Indians have been terrible offensively early this season, beginning the day last in the AL in batting average (.214) and slugging percentage (.338) and second-to-last in runs (46) and on-base percentage (.303).

"We have about seven guys in our lineup that are not swinging the bat the way they're supposed to," Indians manager Manny Acta said before the game.

NOTES: Acta said closer Kerry Wood (back) will throw a simulated game in Oakland on Friday before the team makes a decision on what to do next. ... Indians top prospect Carlos Santana had to be helped off the field for Triple-A Columbus after fouling a ball of his left knee. He is listed as day to day with a bruised left knee. ... Twins RHP Nick Blackburn (elbow soreness) threw a bullpen session on Wednesday and is on track to start on Saturday. ... Twins 3B Nick Punto (groin) missed his fifth straight game. ... Twins RHP Pat Neshek (finger) played catch on Wednesday and could throw a bullpen session on Thursday, manager Ron Gardenhire said.