Morneau powers Twins to win over Tigers

BY foxsports • July 5, 2009

The ball sprung from Magglio Ordonez's bat and landed in the seats to give the Tigers the lead, and Francisco Liriano's head and shoulders dropped as fast as one of his 88 mph sliders.

Liriano fought to finish that seventh inning, though, just as the Twins did following a draining 16-inning defeat the night before.

Justin Morneau had four hits, including a homer and the tying single in the seventh, and Minnesota beat Detroit 4-3 on Saturday.

"You play that many innings, it's a great bounce back to come and win this ballgame," manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Ordonez's three-run homer spoiled an otherwise stellar start by Liriano, but Morneau capped the rally with his hit in the bottom of the inning. Then in the eighth against Brandon Lyon (3-4), Nick Punto poked a soft single over the outstretched glove of shortstop Adam Everett to allow pinch-runner Matt Tolbert time to score on a head-first slide just ahead of the relay throw.

"The guy's fast," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He read the ball well, got a good break on it."

Matt Guerrier (4-0) pitched one inning for the win, and Joe Nathan wrapped it up with his 22nd save to pull the Twins within three games of the first-place Tigers.

Their relievers exhausted, the Twins needed the old Liriano more than ever. Despite the devastating seventh, he did deliver the kind of performance that has been there only sporadically since his sensational rookie season and subsequent elbow surgery in 2006.

"He's getting there," Gardenhire said, adding: "That's the Liriano we need."

Liriano struck out eight and recorded 13 straight outs during the middle innings he's had so much trouble with this year and took a 2-0 advantage into the seventh. After two quick singles to start the frame, however, he lost the lead.

The unfamiliarly shorn Ordonez, in a season-long slump that has worsened on this road trip, crushed a first-pitch fastball over the center-field wall to make it 3-2. Liriano immediately hung his head and stared at the turf for several seconds, hands on his knees.

"Sometimes I put too much pressure on myself, trying to do too much instead of throwing nice and easy and making one pitch at a time," Liriano said.

Because the bullpen threw a combined 13 innings the game before, Liriano knew it was imperative he stay on the mound later than he has been. He intentionally threw a lot of first-pitch strikes, which ultimately hurt him in the seventh. Changing his approach when the situation dictates it remains his biggest challenge.

"That's when he needs to step back and make an adjustment and use some other pitches," Gardenhire said.

Tigers starter Edwin Jackson, who brought the league's second-best earned run average into the game, also gave up a home run to Michael Cuddyer in the fourth and got one out in the seventh before being removed. He got an animated pat on the shoulder from Leyland after striking out Brendan Harris following a leadoff walk drawn by Denard Span, but the late lapse in control was costly.

Span scored after back-to-back singles by Joe Mauer and Morneau against Bobby Seay, negating Jackson's effort that also helped preserve a depleted relief corps after the marathon 11-9 victory.

"That's a pesky team. That's a team that when you go out, you now you're going to have to battle against them. Those two guys, they're great hitters," Jackson said.

Jackson threw 122 pitches.

"It was one of those games where you have to go out there and gut when you don't really have your best stuff," Jackson said.


Jackson has four no-decisions and one loss in his last five starts, but he has allowed more than three earned runs just twice in 17 starts this year - the last time in early May. ... Twins starter Kevin Slowey will see a doctor in Baltimore on Monday about his strained right wrist, which sent him to the DL after Friday's game. Slowey has experienced some pain during activities like opening doors since being struck on the wrist by a batted ball last September, but never when he pitches until now. ... Leyland praised the poise of Luke French, who made his first major league start on Friday, and said he will remain in the rotation.

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