With Major League Baseball's non-waiver trade deadline approaching, Francisco Liriano's time in Minnesota could be coming to an end.
Tonight, he tries to follow up a 15-strikeout performance when the Twins continue a four-game set with the Baltimore Orioles at Target Field.
Liriano struck out 15 batters against the Oakland Athletics on Friday, but absorbed the loss, surrendering four runs (3 earned) - a Jonny Gomes grand slam - and four hits in eight innings, dropping him to 3-8 to go along with a 4.93 ERA.
"His stuff was (like in '06)," Gardenhire said. "Disappearing. We saw hitters swinging and actually looking up like, 'What was that?' Back in '06, when he was on his run, we were on the third-base side, and you'd see hitters take a swing and look back in our dugout and go 'Wow.' That's the type of stuff he had last (Friday)."
The left-hander opened the year 0-5 with a 9.45 ERA over his first six starts and was demoted to the bullpen. However, he has gone 3-3 with a 2.83 ERA while striking out 67 over 57 1/3 innings spanning nine outings since rejoining the rotation May 30.
"I think his confidence is high right now, and that's the key to his success," catcher Drew Butera said. "He's not afraid. He goes right after them. He knows his stuff is good enough to get outs."
Liriano lost to the O's back on April 7 and is 2-2 in five starts against them with a 4.62 ERA.
Minnesota has taken the first two games of this series and on Tuesday, Joe Mauer went 3-for-4 with an RBI to help the Twins to a 6-4 win. Ryan Doumit added two hits, two RBI and a run scored while Jamey Carroll was 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored for the Twins, who had dropped their previous five before the start of this set.
Samuel Deduno lasted just 4 1/3 innings in the start as he gave up four runs -- three earned -- on six hits with five walks and five strikeouts. Alex Burnett (3-2) got the win for pitching a scoreless seventh.
"We got some innings out of Deduno and then the bullpen was able to carry the rest," said Burnett. "We usually get a couple of days off so when we need to pick up some inning we're usually ready for it."
Adam Jones hit a three-run home run while Nick Markakis went 3-for-4 with two runs scored for the Orioles, who have dropped six of their last seven games. Zach Britton went just four-plus innings in his season-debut as he was touched for four runs on six hits with six walks. Luis Ayala (2-3) was handed the loss for giving up two runs in 2 2/3 innings.
"I struggled with my command tonight," said Britton. "I had a few tough innings there, but it will get better as the season goes along."
Baltimore, meanwhile, will hand the ball to righty Tommy Hunter, who will take the place of injured Jason Hammel. Hunter was 3-4 with a 6.11 ERA in 15 appearances (13 starts) this season for the O's.
Hunter beat Liriano back in April and is 2-1 with a 3.32 ERA in four games (3 starts) versus the Twins.
Baltimore swept a three-game set from the Twins earlier in the year and has beaten them in seven of the last nine games they have played.