ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The Minnesota Twins had no answer for Los Angeles Angels right-hander Jerome Williams.
The Twins managed just three hits against Williams, who retired 18 of his last 19 batters and struck out six in a dominating 4-0 victory on Tuesday night. Former Twins outfielder Torii Hunter homered for the fourth time in five games and Howie Kendrick also went deep against Francisco Liriano, keeping the left-hander winless in five starts.
“The result wasn’t very good, but I feel like I’m making better pitches than last time,” Liriano said. “I feel more consistent throwing strikes and I think things are getting better. I made a few adjustments — but I also made a few mistakes.”
Liriano (0-4) gave up four runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings. He surrendered five earned runs in each of his previous five appearances, including a six-batter relief stint in his final outing of last season after missing most of the final five weeks with a strain in the back of his left shoulder.
Liriano has given up 24 earned runs, 32 hits and 16 walks over 21 2-3 innings in his five starts, along with a 9.97 ERA. He would be 0-5 this year if the Twins hadn’t turned a 6-0 deficit into a 10-9 victory against the Angels on April 12 at Target Field — leaving him with a no-decision.
“I know he gave up four runs but he really wasn’t that bad,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He stayed after it after giving up a few runs early, so it was a step in the right direction and we’ll build off of that one.”
Hunter, a teammate of Liriano’s for three seasons in Minnesota, drove his 1-0 change-up to left-center leading off the second. Two batters later, Kendrick homered into the left field bullpen on the same count.
“When I was with the Twins, he was throwing 96, 97 with a slider that was biting. He had a couple of injuries, but he’s still bringing it up — sometimes to 94 or 95,” Hunter said. “Other than the four runs we got, he settled down and kept the ball down and tried to minimize the damage.”
Hunter opened the season with an 18-game home drought before this recent surge. He has lifted his average to .310 and has a team-high 14 RBIs.
“I’m more confident — of course, when you’re hot, you’re confident,” Hunter said. “I feel great. I lost 16 to 18 pounds this offseason, I’m still on my little diet and it’s working for me. I’m about 213, so I’m lighter, stronger, quicker, and I love it.”
Williams (2-1) threw 109 pitches in an economical 2 hours, 10 minutes. It was his third complete game in 81 career starts. His other shutout was on June 27, 2003 with the Giants, a seven-hitter against the Oakland Athletics at San Francisco.
“We pretty much didn’t have much a chance against Mr. Williams out there,” Gardenhire said. “He pretty much ate us up and made quick work of us. He was throwing a nice little cutter and two-seamer, and he never really centered the ball. We didn’t square up all night long.”
The 30-year-old right-hander from Honolulu faced only one batter over the minimum before walking Denard Span with two out in the ninth. Alexi Casilla grounded into a double play after Span opened the game with a single, and Span was picked off first base to end the third. Span’s two hits extended his career-best hitting streak to 12 games.
Minnesota first baseman Justin Morneau, who left Monday night’s series opener after six innings because of a sore left wrist, had an MRI in Minnesota and learned there was no structural damage — only some fluid and inflammation. The 2006 AL MVP is expected to rejoin his teammates on Wednesday before the team heads to Seattle.
“I’m very happy and excited,” Gardenhire said. “I was concerned with him last night after talking to him. Justin’s swing is really, really hard. And coming off the wrist injury, he’s going to take those swings.
Albert Pujols went 0 for 4 with a run-scoring groundout. The three-time NL MVP and two-time home run champ, who had 445 in his previous 11 seasons with St. Louis and hit a career-best 49 in 2006, has gone a career-worst 31 games and 125 at-bats since his last one on Sept. 22, 2011.
NOTES: Liriano is 7-9 with a 5.28 ERA in 23 starts since his no-hitter against the White Sox on May 3, 2011 at Chicago. … Liriano has yet to complete six innings this season. Last year, he was 9-0 with 2.32 ERA in 13 starts when he made it through the sixth. … Minnesota has been outscored by a combined 55-15 margin through the second, third and fourth innings. … Joe Mauer, who missed his first game of the season Monday after taking a foul tip off his left knee on Sunday, was Minnesota’s designated hitter and went 0 for 3. … The Twins, dealing with the uncertainty of Mauer’s knee, recalled Drew Butera from Triple-A Rochester and designated third baseman Sean Burroughs for assignment.
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