Liriano helps Twins beat Tigers 2-0

DETROIT (AP) — Francisco Liriano pitched eighth scoreless innings, leading the Minnesota Twins to a 2-0 win over the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday night.

Liriano (3-0) struck out 10 and gave up the first of four hits in the fifth and walked only one. Jon Rauch closed the game for his seventh save.

Justin Verlander (1-2) gave up an unearned run and struck out a season-high seven over 5 2-3 innings.

Left fielder Ryan Raburn dropped what would've been the third out of the sixth to let Jim Thome score from first after he walked. Second baseman Scott Sizemore made a wide throw on what should've been the final out of the seventh, allowing Michael Cuddyer to score.

Minnesota played the Tigers for the first time since beating them in the 163rd game last year.

The Twins probably will be tough to beat again this season, winning the first six series of a season for the first time in franchise history, especially if Liriano looks like he did before elbow surgery stunted his career.

They have to hope, though, Justin Morneau's stiff back isn't going to be a lingering problem. The star first baseman didn't play after the fifth inning, but the team said the move was made for precautionary reasons.

The 2006 AL MVP played his final game last season on Sept. 12 because of a back injury. He struck out in each of his three at-bats against Verlander after reaching base in each of Minnesota's first 19 games, hitting in 16 of them.

Liriano extended his scoreless innings streak to 23 games in the series opener at Detroit. He had his highest strikeout total since matching a career high with 12 against Detroit on July 28, 2006, when he was en route to a 12-win season as a rookie phenom.

He missed the 2007 season recovering from Tommy John surgery and won a combined 11 games the past two seasons.

If Liriano keeps pitches like this, he might reach that total by the All-Star break.

The Tigers were helpless at the plate against him — often striking out looking — until Miguel Cabrera led off the fifth with a double that was just out of Denard Span's reach in center.

Rauch preserved his victory after giving up a leadoff walk to Johnny Damon in the ninth, getting a groundout and two strikeouts to end the game.

Verlander's best performance of the year was wasted by poor defense.

He gave up a season-low four hits, walked three and didn't give up an earned run after allowing 17 in his first four starts.

Verlander pitched a perfect first and stranded two runners in each of the next three innings.

NOTES: Span threw his bat after being ejected after taking a called third strike in the eighth. ... The game drew just 22,008 on a chilly night, temperatures dipped into the low 40s, and Charlie Villanueva of the Pistons was one of the faces in the crowd. ... Damon bought robes for all the players. They look like the uniform with the English D on the front and the player's name and number on the back. Leyland and the coaches didn't get them.