With the acquisition of Kevin Youkilis , the Chicago White Sox hope they've upgraded a position that's given them virtually no production.
Youkilis is expected to make his Chicago debut Monday night at Target Field as the improving Liriano starts against the White Sox for the first time since no-hitting them nearly 14 months ago.
Chicago (38-34) is hoping Youkilis, who won two World Series with Boston, can give it a more permanent solution at third base. After placing Brent Morel on the disabled list with back issues in May, it signed free agent Orlando Hudson and shifted him from second to third.
Neither has provided much. Hudson is hitting .170 with four errors and 11 driven in over 28 games while Morel was batting .177 with five RBIs. The White Sox's overall numbers at third - a .168 average, one homer and 18 RBIs - are all the worst in the majors.
Youkilis had seen his playing time diminish the past few weeks. In 42 games this season, he's hitting .233 with four homers and 14 RBIs.
"I just got off the phone with him, he's very excited to join our club and he's got a little edge to him that I like," White Sox general manager Kenny Williams said. "I can't tell you exactly what he said, but he wants to come in and prove some people wrong."
Youkilis is just a .200 hitter (6 for 30) at Target Field.
Chicago needs an offensive spark considering it's scored one or zero runs in four of the last seven games. Pinch-hitter Eduardo Escobar drove in the winning run in a 1-0, 10-inning victory over Milwaukee on Sunday as the White Sox took two of three from the Brewers.
After winning back-to-back games for the first time since a nine-game run May 23-June 1, Chicago, which moved a half-game in front of Cleveland for the AL Central lead, will face Liriano (1-7, 5.74 ERA).
The left-hander made a one-inning relief appearance against the White Sox in May, but he threw a no-hitter in his previous start against them on May 3, 2011, in Chicago.
While Liriano went 0-5 with a 9.45 ERA in his first six starts, he has pitched better after spending a few weeks in the bullpen. He's 1-2 with a 2.67 ERA in five starts since, most recently giving up one run and four hits in 6 2-3 innings at Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
"It's better location and I'm getting more swings and misses and more ground balls," Liriano told the Twins' official website. "It's all about location. I'm getting more consistent and throwing the ball over the plate without trying to strike everybody out."
He'll be opposed by Jake Peavy (6-3, 2.74), who has two losses to show for back-to-back solid starts.
Peavy pitched his third complete game of the season in a 2-1 loss to the Cubs on Tuesday. The right-hander gave up one earned run six days after allowing one run in seven innings of a 1-0 defeat at St. Louis.
Peavy split four starts against the Twins last season, winning both trips to Target Field. He gave up seven hits in 14 1-3 scoreless innings in those outings, while he gave up 11 runs in 9 1-3 innings versus Minnesota at home.
The White Sox, who took two of three at home against the Twins in May, won six of nine in Minnesota last year.
The Twins (29-42), who own the worst record in the AL, took two of three at NL Central-leading Cincinnati over the weekend, rallying for a 4-3 win Sunday. Josh Willingham hit a two-run homer in the ninth after Joe Mauer doubled.
"To get a series win here, hopefully we can carry that home," Mauer said.
Sunday was Mauer's first start behind the plate in a week as it appears he's recovered from a bruised thigh.
|Chicago White Sox|
|June 17, 2012||Philip Humber||15-Day DL||Right elbow flexor strain|
|June 13, 2012||Adam Dunn||Day-to-Day||Sprained ankle|
|June 04, 2012||Kosuke Fukudome||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|June 04, 2012||Kosuke Fukudome||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|May 30, 2012||Alejandro De Aza||Day-to-Day||Left game - bruised right knee|
|May 20, 2012||John Danks||15-Day DL||Sore left shoulder|
|June 17, 2012||Matt Capps||Day-to-Day||Sore right shoulder|
|June 17, 2012||Joe Mauer||Day-to-Day||Left game - bruised right quadricep|
|June 16, 2012||Joe Mauer||Day-to-Day||Sore left hamstring|
|June 15, 2012||Justin Morneau||Day-to-Day||Left forearm injury|
|June 14, 2012||P.J. Walters||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|June 13, 2012||P.J. Walters||Day-to-Day||Left game - right shoulder stiffness|
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Francisco Liriano faced runners at the corners with only one out in the seventh.
This was precisely the type of situation where he's faltered so many times before, but Twins manager Ron Gardenhire didn't budge.
"I just have a lot of confidence in him," Gardenhire said.
Liriano deftly navigated his way out of the jam while spoiling Kevin Youkilis ' first game with Chicago, pitching a season-high seven innings to lead the Twins to a 4-1 victory over the White Sox on Monday night.
"I'm more relaxed. I'm not trying to make a perfect pitch," Liriano said. "I'm not worried about the runners like I was before."
Making his first start against the rival White Sox since his no-hitter in Chicago nearly 14 months ago, Liriano (2-7) allowed just three singles, two walks and a double. The lefty struck out five, winning for the first time this month while holding the White Sox without a run until Alexei Ramirez 's sacrifice fly in the seventh.
Jared Burton notched the save for the second straight game for the Twins, filling in for injured closer Matt Capps .
Youkilis singled in the eighth inning for his first hit as Chicago's new third baseman, acquired in a trade with Boston on Sunday, but that was too little too late for Jake Peavy (6-4), who fell to 0-3 in his five June starts.
"Offensively, we just seem to be in a funk," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "Eventually, it'll happen. Hopefully it happens tomorrow."
Liriano won't be pitching, so they'll have a better chance then.
"He was throwing his fastball and commanding it where he wants," Youkilis said. "When he can do that, he's one of the best pitchers there is, like in the past."
Liriano was so lost on the mound in his first six starts this season the pitching-thin Twins had no choice but to bump him to the bullpen, where he still struggled until their staff became so depleted they had no alternative but to put him back in the rotation.
He responded with six shutout innings that day against Oakland, and despite two losses and two no-decisions since then his renaissance features a 2.41 ERA with 40 strikeouts and only 20 hits and one home run allowed in 37 1-3 innings.
Liriano walked Paul Konerko with two outs in the fourth, and Alex Rios followed with a sharp single. But he struck out A.J. Pierzynski, the guy the Twins traded to get him and two others from San Francisco in 2003, on a fastball diving toward the dirt in the mid-90s-mph range.
Not until the seventh did Liriano truly find trouble, but he escaped it with minimal damage.
Rios led off with a double and took third on a wild pitch. Pierzynski hit a hard comebacker that Liriano managed to stop with his shoe and freeze Rios while throwing to first for the out. But he had two strikes on Dayan Viciedo before throwing three straight balls for a walk, the last of which bounced in the dirt and hit catcher Drew Butera below the waist. He was doubled over in pain for a bit before retaking his place behind the plate.
Then came Ramirez, who singled twice earlier and hit one deep enough to right field that Rios could jog home. Gordon Beckham then bounced into a fielder's choice, ending the inning.
"He just decided he was going to trust his fastball and throw the ball over the plate and see what happened," Gardenhire said.
Adam Dunn , well on his way toward breaking the single-season strikeout record of 223, set by Mark Reynolds with Arizona in 2009, whiffed three times against Liriano and once more against Glen Perkins to raise his total for the year to 119.
Peavy struck out seven and walked one in six innings, but he gave up 10 hits and could have allowed a lot more than the three runs the Twins scored over the first two frames.
In the first inning, Denard Span hit the first of his two doubles and scored on a sacrifice fly by Joe Mauer , putting Minnesota in front. In the second, a throwing error by Rios from right field let one run score. Jamey Carroll drove in the next one with a single.
Mauer had three hits, and Ben Revere topped him with his second four-hit performance in the last four games to raise his batting average in 26 games since May 26 to .368. Trevor Plouffe tacked on another run with a sacrifice fly in the seventh, but the Twins were fortunate their pitching was so tough. They left 13 men on base.
NOTES: Liriano has won five straight decisions against the White Sox, dating to July 16, 2010. .. Dunn has three four-strikeout games this year. He has avoided fanning only four times in his 71 starts this season. ... This was Liriano's longest appearance since he finished seven innings in beating the Yankees here last Aug. 20.