MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Francisco Liriano spoke with those same glum words he often uses after he loses a game.
For all the talent the Minnesota Twins left-hander has, even after that career-altering elbow surgery nearly five years ago, he still has trouble keeping his mindset and his mechanics sharp.
Evan Longoria snapped out of his slump with three hits and four RBIs, helping the Tampa Bay Rays top Liriano and the Twins 12-5 on Wednesday.
Michael Cuddyer drove in three runs and tied the game in the seventh with a homer, but the Twins’ bullpen faltered late after Liriano struggled early.
“I know what I’m doing wrong, and I just keep doing it,” said Liriano, who couldn’t get out of the fifth inning.
He allowed six hits, four walks and hit three batters, putting a season-high 13 men on base. Liriano fell behind 2-0 and 4-2, all on two-out runs fueled by that not-so-unfamiliar wildness.
“I was all over the place. I was trying to be too perfect,” he said, adding: “I can’t control myself sometimes out there.”
The formula for defeat has been this: Give up a few runs early, lose confidence and try to throw too hard. Then his slider goes flat and his fastball and changeup fly back and forth. He acknowledged he gets angry at himself on the mound.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m getting close. But some of the time I just go out there and try to do too much and be someone that I’m not,” he said.
After Anthony Swarzak held the Rays scoreless over two innings, Jose Mijares and Alex Burnett escaped a two-on, one-out situation in the seventh with consecutive outs.
But Burnett (2-5) stumbled badly in the decisive eighth, when three straight batters reached — capped by Longoria’s clutch single. B.J. Upton, batting cleanup, pushed in the next run with a sacrifice squeeze bunt. Then Sean Rodriguez smashed a two-run homer to stretch the lead to four.
Manager Ron Gardenhire expressed disappointment in Burnett for a costly walk to Ben Zobrist right before Longoria’s big hit.
“I left a couple pitches up and that’s what got me,” said Burnett, who had gone 15 appearances — 12 innings — without allowing a walk since May 27. “They jumped on me, that’s for sure.”
J.P. Howell (2-1) pitched a scoreless seventh, relieving Juan Cruz after Cuddyer’s 13th homer — and his 22nd RBI in his last 24 games — tied the game at 5.
Rays starter Wade Davis allowed nine hits, four runs — three earned — and three walks in five innings, striking out only Cuddyer. After a two-run single in the fifth by Jim Thome was soft enough to score Alexi Casilla from first base, the lumbering Thome was thrown out trying to score from second on Rene Tosoni’s single, thwarting the rally and ending the inning.
Justin Ruggiano chased Liriano with an RBI single in the fifth to stretch the lead to 5-2, and Liriano failed to finish five innings for the fifth time in 15 starts this season. Even in his no-hitter earlier this year, Liriano had trouble finding the plate, a continuing combination of mystery and frustration for the Twins and their fans over the exceptionally talented Liriano.
“We’re kind of waiting for the moment when we actually see Frankie find it and get rolling along,” Gardenhire said, “but it didn’t happen out there today.”
Johnny Damon was hit by pitches twice, and he left the game with a bruised left hand, but Liriano had provided plenty of evidence he plunked the designated hitter on purpose.
“He had no command of his fastball. None. He was not throwing at Johnny,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said, adding: “He was not attacking the zone at all. It’s part of who he is. He’s got such great depth on his slider, and his changeup is such a good pitch. The fastball command is very shotgun right now.”
Notes: The MRI test on Twins OF/DH Jason Kubel’s sprained left foot showed no ligament damage, but he’s still experiencing swelling and soreness and will have his rehabilitation curtailed until re-evaluation after the All-Star break. Kubel has been out five weeks and counting. … Rookie Tsuyoshi Nishioka had his first three-hit game for the Twins. … Cuddyer has 36 RBIs in his last 48 games, and over the last five games he has 34 percent of the Twins’ RBIs — 10 of 29. … With four wins in six tries at Target Field, the Rays have the most victories by any opponent at the new ballpark.
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