|Minnesota (59-46) «||0||0||0||0||0||4||0||0||x||4||9||1|
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Twins rediscovered their swagger against two of the worst teams in the AL.
Next up, 10 road games in 11 days -- including matchups with two of the best clubs in the league.
"We kind of know the secret here," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Sunday after his squad completed a three-game home sweep of the last-place Seattle Mariners. "Catch the ball, your starters go deep in the game, and it gives you an opportunity."
Playing without sluggers Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, the streaking Twins beat the Mariners 4-0 for the second consecutive day thanks to Francisco Liriano's 11 strikeouts, Jason Kubel's three-run double in the sixth and two scoreless innings from the bullpen. They won their eighth straight and completed their second successive series sweep to remain a half-game behind the first-place Chicago White Sox in the AL Central.
"We'll take it," Gardenhire said. "A nice homestand. A short one, but a nice one."
The Twins have won 10 of 11 overall, all against teams with losing records. But now they head to Tampa Bay for four games and then Cleveland for three. They'll wrap up the road trip in Chicago.
"We're doing everything right now. We're hitting pretty good, we're pitching pretty well," Liriano said. "So we've just got to keep playing the way we're playing and we'll be OK."
Easier said than done on the road, where Minnesota is 26-26. But if the starting pitching continues to hold up, the Twins could return to Minneapolis with the division lead.
Liriano's 11 strikeouts matched a season high. He went seven innings to extend his shutout streak to 21. He has allowed only two runs in his past 28 2/3 innings since giving up seven runs in less than two innings at Detroit on July 9.
The left-hander looked dominant early, striking out the side in the second and fourth. The Mariners mounted their only real threat against him in the fifth when they had runners at the corners with two outs. But Liriano (10-7) induced Ichiro Suzuki into a weak comebacker.
"He kept our hitters off balance. When you have his stuff and you're on and you're hitting your spots, it's pretty tough to hit a guy like that," Seattle's Michael Saunders said.
Kubel ended an 0-for-13 slide with a bases-clearing double in the sixth inning. Danny Valencia followed with an RBI single.
"That was basically the game right there, that inning," Kubel said.
Luke French (0-2) made his second start of the season for Seattle and held his own against a Twins lineup lacking its two biggest stars. French held Minnesota scoreless through five innings before getting into trouble in the sixth.
"He was pretty effective all day long," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. "You take the 1-2 pitch away, really, to give up three runs on one pitch is a lot of the damage."
French gave up a single to Alexi Casilla and a bloop double to Delmon Young in the sixth. Michael Cuddyer was intentionally walked to load the bases for Kubel, who just missed his third grand slam of the season.
The Mariners, who managed three runs in the series, lost their seventh in a row and fell to 15-39 on the road.
"When the whole team's not swinging the bat well and we're not getting on base, we're just putting too much pressure on our pitching staff to continue to put up zeros," Russell Branyan said. "Sooner or later, they're going to break. ... As hitters, we have to wake up."
|Francisco Liriano leads the Twins to their eighth straight win and a three-game sweep of the Mariners. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Ichiro Suzuki, RF||4||0||0||0||0||1||3||.307|
|Chone Figgins, 2B||4||0||1||0||0||3||0||.238|
|Franklin Gutierrez, CF||4||0||0||0||0||1||1||.244|
|Russell Branyan, DH||4||0||0||0||0||3||1||.254|
|Casey Kotchman, 1B||4||0||0||0||0||4||1||.219|
|Josh Wilson, SS||3||0||0||0||0||2||0||.255|
|Matt Tuiasosopo, 3B||3||0||0||0||0||1||1||.150|
|Michael Saunders, LF||3||0||1||0||0||0||1||.243|
|Rob Johnson, C||1||0||0||0||2||0||0||.191|
|2B - Chone Figgins (14, Liriano)|
|3B - Michael Saunders (1, Liriano)|
|Team LOB - 5|
|DP - Figgins-Wilson-Kotchman, Johnson-Figgins|
|Luke French (L,0-2)||6||7||4||4||1||3||0||6.27|
|IBB - Cuddyer by Luke French|
|HBP - Young (by Luke French)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Luke French 89-64, Sean White 13-8, Brandon League 12-8|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Luke French 6-8, Sean White 1-2, Brandon League 1-0|
|Batters Faced - Luke French 26, Sean White 4, Brandon League 3|
|Denard Span, CF||4||0||2||0||0||0||0||.276|
|Alexi Casilla, 2B||4||1||1||0||0||0||2||.282|
|Delmon Young, LF||3||1||1||0||0||0||2||.335|
|Michael Cuddyer, 1B||3||1||0||0||1||0||2||.276|
|Jason Kubel, DH||4||1||2||3||0||1||0||.259|
|Danny Valencia, 3B||4||0||2||1||0||2||1||.388|
|Jason Repko, RF||3||0||1||0||0||0||2||.324|
|J.J. Hardy, SS||3||0||0||0||0||0||3||.260|
|Drew Butera, C||3||0||0||0||0||1||1||.184|
|2B - Delmon Young (32, French), Jason Kubel (16, French), Danny Valencia (8, French), Jason Repko (3, French)|
|RBI - Jason Kubel 3 (61), Danny Valencia (13)|
|CS - Jason Kubel (1, 2nd base by League/Johnson)|
|Team LOB - 5|
|E - J.J. Hardy (3, Throwing)|
|Francisco Liriano (W,10-7)||7||2||0||0||2||11||0||3.18|
|Pitches-Strikes - Francisco Liriano 109-68, Jon Rauch 12-8, Matt Guerrier 18-12|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Francisco Liriano 10-1, Jon Rauch 1-0, Matt Guerrier 1-0|
|Batters Faced - Francisco Liriano 26, Jon Rauch 3, Matt Guerrier 3|
|Attendance - 40374|
|Game Time - 2:14|
|Temperature - 86|
|Umpires - Home - Ron Kulpa, First Base - Lance Barksdale, Second Base - Ed Rapuano, Third Base - Tom Hallion|