MINNEAPOLIS -- In his final start of the season, rookie Francisco Liriano finally showed the Minnesota Twins a glimpse of his potential.
"He threw as good as we were expecting and hoping he'd throw," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He was throwing the fastball, using the fastball, locating the fastball and working off of that. Once he does that, his slider and changeup are unbelievable."
Liriano (1-2) tied a career high with eight strikeouts and outpitched Mike Maroth (14-14), who failed in his attempt to become the first Tigers left-hander with 15 wins since Justin Thompson in 1997.
Morneau broke open the game in the eighth with his first career grand slam off Jamie Walker, spoiling a solid start from Maroth.
Maroth wasn't bad, he just wasn't as sharp as Liriano. Maroth gave up four runs and nine hits with three strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings.
"The guy has definitely done everything in his power," manager Alan Trammell said. "I just wish we could've gotten him that win. Nevertheless, he's done a very nice job for us. That's the point I hope gets across. This guy, like others, probably deserves better."
Brandon Inge homered for the Tigers, who lost their third in a row as the season winds to a close, which certainly isn't helping Trammell's chances at returning for another season.
The former star shortstop for the Tigers has one year remaining on his contract and said he could hear as early as Monday from ownership whether he will be asked back for another season.
"I can't even, it's just almost too much to take to be honest with you," Trammell said of his team's struggles. "It's like we can't catch a break. In light of us struggling, it's just not coming easy, all the way until the end."
Liriano was the biggest reason for Trammell's latest loss. With a fastball that touched 96 mph to complement a biting slider, Liriano delivered his best start since being called up from Triple-A on Sept. 2, throwing just 72 pitches and not walking a batter.
"That's what I was looking for from my fastball," Liriano said. "I was really in control."
It was an about-face from his two previous starts. Liriano threw 98 pitches in six innings of a loss to Chicago in his last start, and 93 pitches in just 3 2/3 innings of a loss to Oakland on Sept. 20.
In between starts, Liriano went to 2004 AL Cy Young winner Johan Santana for advice. Santana has a similar pitching style based on a hard slider and superb changeup.
"He's been great to me," Liriano said. "To get a chance to talk to Santana between starts, it's been great."
Juan Rincon pitched a perfect eighth and Jesse Crain allowed a sacrifice fly to Magglio Ordonez in the ninth.
Liriano cruised through the first five innings, making just one mistake to Inge in the third. He left a pitch up in the zone, and Inge drove it 406 feet to right-center field to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
Inge nearly took a run away from the Twins in the bottom of the inning when he made a diving stop at third of a grounder by Luis Rodriguez. But Inge's throw from his knees to home was a little left of the plate, allowing Jason Bartlett to score and tie the game.
Matthew LeCroy broke out of an 0-for-17 slump in the fourth when he hit his 16th homer of the season into the seats in left, giving the Twins their first lead at 2-1.
The Tigers seemed poised for a big inning in the sixth when they had three one-out singles in a row, the last one coming from Placido Polanco that scored Infante to tie the game. But Liriano got Chris Shelton to ground into a double play to end the inning.
It's been that kind of year for Maroth and the Tigers, who hope Trammell gets one more chance to prove himself with an improving club.
"I'd like to see him back. I think he's come a long way as a manager," Maroth said. "We had a lot of injuries this year, that's kind of limited our success.
"His first year he really wasn't managing, he was teaching. There wasn't much he could do. For him to go through that and even last year ... we still didn't have a lot of options."
If Liriano continues to progress, the Twins will have plenty of options in their starting rotation with him, Santana, Carlos Silva and Brad Radke.
"I'll be better next year," the big lefty said. "I'll be more confident with myself and way more comfortable out there."
Inge's homer gave the Tigers at least one extra-base hit in 69 of their last 70 games and 57 home runs in their last 39 games. ... Craig Monroe came into the game with a .368 career batting average in 47 games against Minnesota, but he went 0-for-4 on Friday night.