box) Pitching and defense. That's been the mantra chanted throug..."/> box) Pitching and defense. That's been the mantra chanted throug..."/> box) Pitching and defense. That's been the mantra chanted throug..."/>

Liriano Stellar Again as Twins Blank Tigers

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Minnesota 2, Detroit 0 (box)

Pitching and defense.

That’s been the mantra chanted throughout baseball by large and small market teams alike since the end of the steroid era. When the should-have-been offensive juggernaut Tigers wound up finishing last in 2008, they adopted the same philosophy going into 2009. But that team didn’t have quite enough offense, so the brass backed off just a little to add more pop this year.

But on a night when the Tigers wound up in a pitchers duel, the team played bad enough defense to lose the game.

After a two-out walk to Jim Thome, Justin Verlander‘s long-time nemesis, in the sixth, Verlander (1-2) induced a fly ball from J.J. Hardy that should have ended the inning. Ryan Raburn got to the ball in the gap, but couldn’t secure the running catch and Thome scampered around from first to give the Twins a 1-0 lead.

Fast forward to the next inning and Thome again played a role, grounding a ball into the shift that was gloved in short right field by Scott Sizemore. But Sizemore threw the ball away on what should have been the third out. Instead another Twin crossed the plate. With the way Fransisco Liriano was dealing, two runs was more than enough.

Let’s take nothing away from the efforts of Liriano and Verlander, not to mention Ni. From the first batter on, Liriano (3-0) was in control of this game for Minnesota. You remember that guy who took the American League by storm in 2006? Before injuries derailed his progression? That talented young left hander that was to have been the heir to Johan Santana with the Twins? You saw him again last night, just as he has been in each of his last four starts.

Liriano dominated in a way he hasn’t for years. He sure looks back to me.

On the other side, Verlander was better in this start than he has been this season, which in itself doesn’t say much. But he showed the same kind of stuff and command of his pitches that he displayed throughout the final five months of 2009. If Verlander has finally found himself this year, if he pitches the way he did going forward, the Tigers should be just fine.

But the night belonged to Liraino and the Twins. It has been said that this Minnesota team lacks an ace, but if Liriano is truly back to being what he was before Tommy John surgery, the Twins have their ace.

And they might just run away and hide in this division.

No Cheers today, but Jeers (and streaks) will follow after the jump.

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Jeers for

  • Ryan Raburn– It wasn’t the easiest of catches, but Raburn should have made the play that lead to the first run of the game. Am I the only one who holds his breath on every fly ball hit in Raburn’s direction? The guy’s an asset due to his bat and his versatility, but he’s not a good defender, no matter where he’s playing.
  • Scott Sizemore– Again, the play was not routine, second basemen are not used to playing in shallow right field, but an accurate throw should have been made and wasn’t. Maybe by that point it didn’t matter as the Tigers failed to score anyway, but there’s a big difference in playing for one run versus needing two to tie late.
  • Bad Defense– With three more errors last night, the Tigers now lead the league with 21 miscues. About that whole pitching and defense thing…

We’re Going Streaking

  • Centerfielder Austin Jackson finally broke his string of 19 games to start a career with at least one strikeout, the longest such streak since at least 1920. Ironically, he did it in a game in which his teammates fanned 12 times.
  • Johnny Damon extended his hitting streak to 14 games, he is batting .420 during the streak.
  • With his eight shutout frames last night, Liriano has not allowed a run in his last 23 innings.

What’s on tap?

It doesn’t get any easier for Detroit tonight as they take on Scott Baker, who was Minnesota’s best hurler last season. Max Scherzer makes the start for Detroit and he has been the best starter the Tigers have had this year.

Baker (2-2, 4.81) held the Tigers to three runs over six innings in Game 163 last year and is 3-1 with a 3.76 ERA in six career starts at Comerica Park. Of the probables expected to face him tonight, only Brandon Inge has struggled, batting just 6 for 35 (.171) against him. Miguel Cabrera (.333) and Magglio Ordonez (.452) have each homered twice in their careers versus Baker.

Scherzer (1-1, 2.63) is making his first career appearance versus the Twins and has only faced two of their players. Orlando Hudson is 1 for 8 (.125) with a double and J.J. Hardy is 1 for 4 (.250) with a homer lifetime versus Scherzer.