Liriano struggles again, Twins lose to Royals
MINNEAPOLIS — Francisco Liriano changed up this time and threw more fastballs. Too bad for him, the result was a replay of his two other starts.
Slumping Mike Aviles doubled twice and drove in three runs as the Kansas City Royals became the latest team to tag Liriano, roughing up the Minnesota Twins 10-5 Wednesday.
Aviles ended his 0-for-18 rut and Alex Gordon added two hits and drove in two runs. The Royals scored six times in the fourth inning to break open the game.
"It was a tough inning for me," Liriano said. "I think I made some good pitches in that inning and they still got hits. So, you've just got to tip your hat to them."
Liriano (0-3) gave up six straight hits during the Royals' big inning. He began the game with a 7.71 ERA after Toronto and the New York Yankees knocked him around in his first two starts.
The left-hander went 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA last year and ranked fifth in the AL with 201 strikeouts. He is still trying to re-establish his dominance after elbow surgery four years ago.
Liriano held the Royals hitless through the first three innings. The second time through the order, however, proved a tougher task. That's been his pattern this year — in their first plate appearance against Liriano, hitters are batting just .083.
Manager Ron Gardenhire has been telling Liriano to relax, trust his movement and pitch to contact. In the first three innings, Liriano has a 2.00 ERA; from the fourth inning on, his ERA jumps to 18.56 and hitters are hitting .448 off him.
"I threw more fastballs than I'm used to today," Liriano said. "I just wanted them to put the ball in play and not strike them out."
Kansas City opened the fourth with five straight singles before a two-run double by Aviles. Alcides Escobar later singled and Chris Getz had an RBI single.
"Balls just seemed to find holes," Gardenhire said. "Nothing was hit really hard. Maybe a couple of them, but balls just kept finding places and rolling through."
Denard Span was 4-for-4 and scored twice for the Twins, who started the day as the lowest-scoring team in the majors.
"I thought the last couple of days the ball was coming off our bats pretty good," Gardenhire said. "We had a lot better at-bats and made some things happen. We got back into the game today by swinging the bats and having some good at-bats."
Kansas City is showing no such problem with its bats.
The Royals started the day with the AL's second-best batting average and every starter except Matt Treanor finished with a hit Wednesday.
"We've gotten on base a lot and if we don't get it here, we'll get it there," Kansas City's Billy Butler said. "We're just doing a good job of putting pressure on teams. We have to continue to do that, force the issue and keep taking the extra base."
Kyle Davies (1-1) won despite allowing five runs and 10 hits in five innings. Three relievers combined on four hitless innings, giving up just two hits, and Jeremy Jeffress finished with two innings for his first major league save.
"It was a day of bunches," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. "We bunched together a bunch of hits and then they came back and bunched together a bunch of hits. Again, our bullpen is spectacular and did the job."
Aviles added an RBI double in the sixth after Minnesota struck for four runs in the fifth against Davies. Gordon hit a two-run double as part of a three-run ninth.
The Twins scored in the first inning for the first time this season, but missed a prime opportunity for more.
Span opened with a single, the first leadoff hit for Minnesota this season, and later scored. The Twins had runners at first and third with no outs, but a pair of popouts and a strikeout ended the threat for Davies.
NOTES: The Royals' bullpen has an ERA of 1.72 in the last five games. ... Liriano was 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA last season against Kansas City. He only allowed two earned runs in 14 innings. ... The Twins led the majors in first-inning runs last season, but had failed to score in the first or second innings in any game this season. The three first-inning hits equaled their season total. Minnesota entered the game 3 for 33 in the first inning, with two walks and 11 strikeouts. ... Yost said before the game that Robinson Tejeda would not be used as his primary setup reliever. Tejeda failed to retire a batter in the 10th inning of Tuesday's 4-3 loss, surrendering three hits and a walk.