ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — The Minnesota Twins are becoming concerned with Francisco Liriano’s struggles.
Desmond Jennings had one of the Rays’ team record four sacrifice flys and drove in three runs as Tampa Bay beat Liriano and the Twins 6-2 on Sunday.
“Frankie had another rough start. … It doesn’t look like he’s pitching with a lot of confidence right now,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’re going to step back and see what we need to do to try and help him out, get his confidence back, and try to figure some things out to help him. We’re going to review the whole situation and see what’s best for our ballclub and him.”
Gardenhire plans to talk with Liriano and Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson.
Jennings had a sacrifice fly during a two-run third and made it 5-0 in the fifth with a two-run homer off Liriano (0-3).
“As soon as a couple things happened out there, he started misfiring,” Gardenhire said. “Quit attacking the zone. I think he gets away from wanting to throw his fastball, and that’s his bread and butter. He pitches off the fastball.”
“You can see him start kind of moping around a little bit on the mound,” Gardenhire added. “He’s a really good pitcher with great stuff. We just have to figure out a way to get his confidence back up there to where he commands everything.”
Liriano went five innings, allowing five runs, three hits and four walks. The left-hander has given up 22 runs, 25 hits and 13 walks over 16 1-3 innings this season.
“I haven’t talked to anybody, but whatever it is, if it’s going to help me I’m going to do it,” Liriano said. “They’ve given me a chance to go out and start, but I haven’t done my job. So whatever they’re going to do, it’s OK with me.”
Liriano threw just 47 of 86 pitches for strikes.
“I can’t locate my pitches at all,” Liriano said. “Not even my fastball, my changeup, nothing. Nothing is working so far.”
Tampa Bay’s four sac flys were the most by an AL team since Seattle had five in a game — which tied the major league record — against Kansas City on April 15, 2008.
“From a spectator’s perspective, it’s one of the more boring plays in all of baseball,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “But from the dugout perspective, I can to tell you how exciting it is to see that.”
Josh Willingham went 0 for 2, which ended his season-opening 15-game hitting streak that had tied Kirby Puckett’s Twins’ record set in 1994. Willingham walked once and was hit by a pitch.
The Rays took a 2-0 lead — on sacrifice flys by Jennings and Ben Zobrist — in the third without getting a hit. Liriano loaded the bases with no outs with two walks and a hit batter.
Evan Longoria got the Rays’ first hit leading off the fourth, a high fly to left that struck an overhanging catwalk and then landed in shallow center. He scored to make it 3-0 on B.J. Upton’s sacrifice fly.
Upton added another sacrifice fly in the eighth, which gave the Rays the team record.
Tampa Bay’s Jeff Niemann didn’t allow a hit until Clete Thomas’ two-out single in the fifth. He left one inning later with the bases loaded and one out. After Jake McGee struck out Justin Morneau, pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit cut the Twins’ deficit to 5-2 on a two-run single off Wade Davis.
Niemann (1-2) gave up two runs and three hits in 5 1-3 innings. His teammate at Rice University, Phil Humber, threw the first perfect game in the majors in almost two years as the Chicago White Sox beat Seattle 4-0 on Saturday.
“He put some pressure on me to go out there and do something myself,” Niemann said. “It was weird for Humber to go out there the day before and do something like that. We spent three years in college together. It was almost like a ‘Here it goes again’ kind of thing. It was fun.”
The Twins went 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position, and were 4 for 27 overall in losing two of three to Tampa Bay.
“We had one big hit, obviously not enough big hits,” Gardenhire said. “Just a rough day for us.”
NOTES: Minnesota RHP Nick Blackburn (right shoulder) threw a 52-pitch bullpen session and is scheduled to pitch Tuesday night against Boston. … Former Twins star Tony Oliva threw the ceremonial first pitch. He was inducted this weekend into the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame, which is located at Tropicana Field. … Minnesota RHP Jason Marquis (1-0) and Boston LHP Jon Lester (0-2) are the scheduled starters Monday night. … The Rays are off on Monday.
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