MINNEAPOLIS – Danny Valencia's one-out single in the 10th inning drove in Michael Cuddyer from second base and gave the Minnesota Twins a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night.
The Twins kept their four-game lead over Chicago in the AL Central, improving to 9-5 against the Tigers this season, 7-1 at Target Field.
Against Ryan Perry (2-5), Cuddyer singled to start the inning and stole second base while Delmon Young struck out.
Then Valencia, whose single in the fifth helped the Twins score their first run against Tigers starter Max Scherzer, smacked a single to center that was deep enough for Cuddyer to score standing up just before the throw from Austin Jackson.
Jon Rauch (3-1) pitched a perfect 10th for the victory.
Liriano kept up his strong second half with seven shutout innings, powerfully and masterfully working his way out of men-on situations in the first, third, fourth, fifth and seventh.
Using two double plays, both fueled by careless baserunning by the Tigers, Liriano lowered his ERA to 2.17 in nine starts after the All-Star break. He's 6-0, after his third no-decision in the last five turns. His last loss was at Detroit on July 9.
The second half hasn't been as much fun for Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who hasn't had a winning record in games after the All-Star break since his World Series championship season with Florida in 1997. The Tigers were 38-38 in the second half last year, but after a brief lead in early July they've fallen out of contention behind the Twins and White Sox and are 17-30 since the break this summer.
Lately at least, the pitching staff has picked it up for the Tigers.
In their last 12 games, the starters have a 1.81 ERA and a 7-1 record with 11 quality starts of six innings or more and three earned runs or less. The Tigers are 7-5 in that stretch.
Young doubled for the Twins' first hit and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jose Morales in the fifth inning, the only damage done against the surging Scherzer. The 26-year-old right-hander has allowed one run or less in six of his last seven starts, with just two given up in the other one. Scherzer struck out nine against a Twins lineup missing three injured regulars.
After Peralta's hit, he finished strong — getting Valencia on a weak pop out to second and striking out Morales and Jason Repko in the perfect eighth.
Then in the ninth, after pinch-hitter Jim Thome's sharp single, Scherzer retired Joe Mauer on a fly to left. Nobody was even warming up in the bullpen, until Perry got ready for the 10th.
Liriano had help from Will Rhymes (he strayed too far from first on a one-out flyout to left in the first), Brennan Boesch (he did the same with no outs in the fifth on a lineout to shortstop) and his own second baseman Alexi Casilla (he made a slick one-handed pickup of a slow bouncer by Miguel Cabrera to make an off-balance throw for the out in the sixth).
But the left-hander was just as impressive. He struck out Jackson and got Rhymes to ground out to end the third with runners at second and third. Then he struck out Gerald Laird, with the fans on their feet, to finish the seventh after hitting Boesch with a pitch.
Jackson started the eighth with a single against Jesse Crain, but Rhymes popped up his bunt attempt and Randy Flores came in to strike out pinch-hitter Ryan Raburn. But Matt Guerrier walked Cabrera, and Peralta's single to left field tied the game.
That was only the second earned run charged to Crain in his last 35 appearances. His fellow right-hander Guerrier, however, had a 5.27 ERA in August.
NOTES: Scherzer is still only 1-6 with a 5.46 ERA in 11 starts against division opponents. He's 9-3 with a 2.13 ERA in 15 starts against all other teams. ... The Twins finished August with 18 wins (in 28 games), the most in the league and their highest total in one month since Sept. 2006.