Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 5/30/12
MINNEAPOLIS With the way he was pitching early on, Francisco Liriano didn't have many reasons to smile this year. But there was no mistaking the grin on his face after he helped the Minnesota Twins sweep the Oakland Athletics with a 4-0 victory Wednesday.It was Liriano's first start since May 7. Since then, the Twins left-hander was demoted to the bullpen for three weeks to help get his mind straight while he looked to regain his form. Before his demotion, he was 0-5 with a 9.45 ERA. Opponents were batting .346 against him, and he walked 19 batters in 26 23 innings.For one day, though, all that misery was put in the past. Liriano was given a new start Wednesday, and he took full advantage. Against a punchless Oakland lineup, Liriano threw six scoreless innings while striking out nine and giving up just three hits and walking two.It was a side of Liriano the Twins had seen before, just not this year. Now that it has resurfaced, Minnesota is hoping to see much more of it the rest of the season."That's the best we've seen him in a while," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said after the win. "We were real happy for the young man. He had a smile on his face. We need a lot more of that."While Liriano insists he never lost his confidence, he seemed to battle himself mentally while in the rotation at the start of the year. The walks, the runs, the abbreviated outings all of those were troubling for a pitcher who has, at times, shown that he has the stuff to be a dominant starting pitcher. After Wednesday's encouraging outing, Liriano said he can put his early-season slump in the rear view mirror."I told myself before the game, this is a new start for me today," he said. "Everything that happened in the past, put it behind me and move forward and hope everything goes the way I want to today."In each of his previous six starts, Liriano seemed to run into trouble several times an outing. He was rarely in such a spot Wednesday, if at all. Liriano allowed only two base runners to get past first base on Collin Cowgill's one-out double in the first inning and a hit by Jemile Weeks and a walk to Cowgill in the third. Both times, Liriano avoided adding any fuel to the fire. He was aided in the third inning when Josh Reddick lined into a double play, and Jonny Gomes then struck out swinging to end the inning.Including those two at-bats in the third inning, Liriano retired the last 11 batters he faced. That included swinging strikeouts to the final two batters of the sixth inning."He can do that. That's something that's always a part of Frankie's game is swings and misses," Gardenhire said. "He's got the changeup that dives away and a nasty slider and the delivery. I was more impressed with how he got behind a couple guys and came back throwing that fastball over the plate and not trying to trick people too awful much."Liriano's longest outing this year before Wednesday was 5 13 innings against the Los Angeles Angels. He didn't have a single start in which he allowed fewer than four runs. His season-high for strikeouts was five.But a different Liriano emerged Wednesday. His slider was closer to its dominant form, and he consistently pounded the strike zone with fastball, especially when he fell behind in counts."I feel great. I feel great out there. Physically and mentally, I feel great," Liriano said. "To go out there and just give my team a chance to win a ballgame it's a good feeling."Liriano's day was done after six innings and 88 pitches. Considering it was his first start in more than three weeks, that effort was more than the Twins could have asked for from the left-hander."When he's on, he's an ace, 100 percent," catcher Drew Butera said. "He has an electric fastball, and obviously you know about that slider. When he's got his stuff, when he's throwing strikes, he's a true ace."But a pitcher is only as good as his last start, and Liriano is no exception. Now the question becomes whether Liriano can translate what he did on the mound Wednesday into a string of successful outings the rest of the year."I never lost my confidence, even when I was in the bullpen," Liriano said. " I knew that I wasn't making a lot of mistakes. Knowing that I didn't make any mistakes today is a great feeling. I hope I can do the same thing in the next start." Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Manfred blames MLBPA for no significant rule changes in 2017

Report: Zach Britton has potential oblique injury

The Rock returns to WWE, leaves CM Punk a voicemail after 'Raw'

After outfield collision, Ichiro pranks teammate and claims he’s been cut

Simeon Rice gets vulgar with radio host over HOF debate

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Ronda Rousey to be guest star on NBC’s ‘Blindspot’

Lakers replace Jim Buss with Magic Johnson, fire Kupchak

Report: James Harrison, Steelers share mutual interest in 2017 return

Jimmy Garoppolo’s mom keeping him up to speed on his trade rumors

Report: Clippers intent on keeping both Blake Griffin, Chris Paul

Slam dunks and startups: How all-star technology took over the NBA in The Big Easy

Nintendo is finally, thankfully embracing sports and eSports

The 'Did the Kings just make the Pelicans into a super team?' quiz

Will the Timberwolves start showcasing their potential?

'Playmakers' in Ice Cube's league who can help the Cavs

Box Score 2/21: It's trade heartbreak season

The guard tandems you'd want in a 2-on-2 tournament

We got our hands on the new Nintendo Switch, here are our first impressions

Top 10 second basemen in baseball for 2017

Teams and players who could be dealing at the NBA trade deadline

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

Baseball movies you can stream now to hold you over until Opening Day

Movies you can stream now to get your football fix

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Nintendo is finally, thankfully embracing sports and eSports

The 'Did the Kings just make the Pelicans into a super team?' quiz

Will the Timberwolves start showcasing their potential?

'Playmakers' in Ice Cube's league who can help the Cavs

QUIZ: Name every MLB pitcher to win 100 games with two different teams

The guard tandems you'd want in a 2-on-2 tournament

We got our hands on the new Nintendo Switch, here are our first impressions

Top 10 second basemen in baseball for 2017

Teams, players who could be dealing at the NBA trade deadline

As NHL trade deadline nears, seven teams who could be dealing

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker