Sloppy Red Sox Shut Out by Francisco Liriano, Twins 8-0

Sloppy Red Sox Shut Out by Francisco Liriano, Twins 8-0 MINNEAPOLIS — Francisco Liriano threw seven
shutout innings for Minnesota, and the Twins took the first series at
Target Field with an 8-0 victory over the sloppy Boston Red Sox on
Thursday.

Every Twins starter had a hit except batting
champ Joe Mauer. Denard Span turned two of Tim Wakefield's knuckleballs
into RBI doubles and Michael Cuddyer homered and drove in three runs.

Liriano (1-0) scattered four hits and walked
two while striking out eight, after a so-so performance in his first
start.

The left-hander worked out of one-out, two-on
trouble in the first two frames and reached back for one of those
trademark sliders to strike out Jeremy Hermida and end the seventh with
one on.

Wakefield (0-1) is 14-6 lifetime against the
Twins, including a 7-4 mark at the Metrodome, where the float on his
knuckler often proved more baffling than usual. He didn't fool very many
batters in this one, giving up 10 hits and six runs in 5 1/3 innings.

Minnesota's new ballpark is quite the
attraction, but a bounce-back season from Liriano might make Twins fans
almost as excited. After a dominant rookie season in 2006, an elbow
injury and a loss of confidence, he hasn't been the same since.

While going 5-13 with a 5.80 ERA last year,
Liriano gave up at least one run in each of his 24 starts. Boston,
meanwhile, had been averaging more than five runs a game this season.

It was that kind of afternoon for the Red Sox,
who left a total of five runners in scoring position and made three
errors in the field — plus another flub that let the Twins score in the
sixth.

J.J. Hardy reached on a bad throw by third
baseman Adrian Beltre, and Span followed a single by Nick Punto with a
double — and possible triple — into the corner in right.

Punto slipped trying to hold up at third, but
Span had his head down rounding second. Catcher Victor Martinez's throw
wasn't in time to get Span retreating, while Punto came home anyway.

Though summer heat and humidity could bring a
different effect on the trajectory of balls hit at Target Field and the
wind currents appear unpredictable, it will take a lot of muscle to hit
one out to center field, between 403 and 411 feet away from the plate.

Martinez and Kevin Youkilis got good wood on
Liriano in consecutive flies in the third, but Span didn't even make it
to the warning track to catch them.

Down the lines, though, the home run distances
are inviting.

Cuddyer's drive in the seventh didn't look
like much of a blast but just kept sailing on left fielder Jeremy
Hermida
and cleared the wall for an 8-0 lead.

Notes
Twins RH Pat Neshek, who threw two scoreless relief innings in
Wednesday's game, has a sore flexor tendon in the middle finger of his
throwing hand. Manager Ron Gardenhire said Neshek wouldn't have pitched
anyway, but the sidearmer will be re-evaluated before Friday's game to
determine his availability. … Mike Lowell was the DH for Boston in
place of slumping David Ortiz. Manager Terry Francona said that was
because of the matchup with Liriano. … Rookie Drew Butera will back up
Mauer behind the plate indefinitely. Gardenhire said there's no rush to
bring Jose Morales back after right wrist surgery. "We look at
catch-and-throw guys for our backup catcher. He can hit. We know that.
He's still got to be able to do some of the other thing, catch and
throw. He calls a good game, but he's got to be able to throw somebody
out."

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