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Liriano surrenders three homers as Twins fall in L.A.

By LaVelle E. Neal III

McClatchy Newspapers

ANAHEIM, CALIF. — Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has thrown his hands up twice during this road trip when looking for a No. 2 hitter. On Friday, he might have really meant it.

"I’ll probably just leave him there for a while and not mess with that part and see if we can figure out everything else,’’ Gardenhire said before his Twins faced the Angels.

Gardenhire was talking about keeping Joe Mauer’s swing in the No. 2 hole of the batting order. Gardenhire tried it Wednesday but the Twins were shelled 16-1 by Oakland. He gave Alexi Casilla another chance in the No. 2 slot Monday; Casilla went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.

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Mauer, back in the spot on Friday, responded with his 16th and 17th homers of the season. But when Francisco Liriano pitches the way he did during the Twins’ 6-3 loss to the Angels on Friday, it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter when No. 7 hitter Robb Quinlan hits a two-run homer.

It doesn’t matter when No. 9 hitter Jeff Mathis connects on a solo blast.

It doesn’t matter when Mike Napoli, who shouldn’t be allowed to extend his arms, got a nothing fastball up and away in the sixth and broke the game open with a three-run homer, delighting the announced crowd of 39,272.

"He tried to do too much with that pitch," Gardenhire said of Liriano.

The Twins have lost four of their past five games, dropping them under .500, at 48-49, for the first time since June 17. They fell four games behind first-place Detroit in the AL Central. The Angels have won seven in a row.

Liriano entered the game with a 5.33 ERA that ranked him 86th among 91 pitchers in baseball who qualified for the ERA lead. Now it’s 5.56, at a time when the Twins need him to sort out his problems the most.

Kevin Slowey’s wrist might need surgery. Glen Perkins is trying to beat back a slightly sore shoulder before it develops into something that could hinder him.

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Liriano has poured a lot of energy into trying to find a groove, with little success. He looked flustered on the mound as Gardenhire walked out in the sixth inning to remove him from the game.

He then slumped on the bench of the dugout as pitching coach Rick Anderson put an arm around him and patted him on the back of the head. Gardenhire walked over and tried to console him as well.

Liriano then went to ice his arm with his victory total for the season frozen at four.

He wasn’t the only problem Friday. The other problems was that Mauer outhit his teammates 2-1 for seven-plus innings. Denard Span’s single to left with two outs in the eight was the Twins’ fourth hit of the night.

"Other than Mauer we didn’t have much else going on," Gardenhire said.

Angels starter John Lackey improved to 6-4 with his third consecutive victory. He held the Twins to four hits and two walks over 7 2/3 innings while striking out three. He has a 1.52 ERA over those three games.

The Twins also fell to 3-5 on their current 10-game road trip.

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