Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 5/2/12
It may not look like it in the box score, but Tuesday's start was progress for Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano. Liriano had time off to clear his mind and to prepare for his fifth start of the year after getting knocked around in his first four starts and skipping his last time through the rotation. And while he was charged with the loss in Minnesota's 4-0loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Angels, there were some positives to take away from Liriano's outing. "Frankie, you know what, I know he gave up four runs, but it wasn't that bad," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. Liriano pitched into the sixth inning for the first time all season. He had previously pitched five innings twice in his first four starts, but never made it past the fifth. Tuesday, he went 5 13 innings and left the game after facing two batters in the sixth.Liriano also set a season-high with five strikeouts. His previous high was four, which he achieved twice in his first four starts.And Liriano was able to avoid trouble when the Angels got runners in scoring position. He allowed a leadoff triple to Howie Kendrick in the fourth inning after what appeared to be fan interference on a deep fly off the wall in center field. But Liriano then induced a pair of groundouts and a shallow fly ball to keep Kendrick stranded on third and keep it a 4-0 game.Liriano again worked out of a leadoff base runner in the top of the fifth. After Mike Trout drew a leadoff walk and then stole second, Liriano struck out Alberto Callaspo, induced a ground ball out from Albert Pujols and struck out Mark Trumbo to again end the inning with a runner in scoring position.In previous starts, Liriano would struggle and seem to battle himself mentally if he allowed a base runner. Tuesday, that didn't seem to be the case."I made better pitches than last time," Liriano said. "I just tried to hit my spot, not worry about the guy on third. Whatever's done is done. I've got to make sure I get the next guy out and not think about that guy."After facing two batters in the sixth inning, Liriano's night was done. It was the first time all season that he pitched into the sixth inning an encouraging sign in an otherwise disappointing night for the Twins. He finished with 5 13 innings of work, allowing four earned runs on seven hits while striking out a season-high five batters and walking three. The first two runs Liriano allowed were on mistakes left over the plate, as Angels right fielder Torii Hunter and second baseman each tagged Liriano for solo homers in the second inning. The other two runs Liriano allowed came in the third inning an RBI groundout and a run-scoring single by Hunter that made it 4-0. "I made a couple mistakes," Liriano said of the second inning. "I was trying to go in. The ball stayed right down the middle. I threw a changeup to Torii, hung a changeup. I just made a couple mistakes."The way the Twins' offense had been going lately, four runs allowed by Liriano would have been enough to keep his team in the game Minnesota had scored four or more runs in four of its past five games. But the Twins were stymied by Angels starter Jerome Williams, who picked up his second career shutout and first since his rookie year in 2003.So while Liriano was outdueled by a journeyman right-hander Tuesday, the Twins liked the progress they saw from their left-hander."I was happy with the way he threw the baseball," Gardenhire said. "That's a step in the right direction and we'll just build off of that one."Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.
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