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Twins blank O's as Liriano allows one hit over seven

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Justin Morneau's favorite part about playing
first base when Francisco Liriano is pitching comes on the rare
occasion when a hitter actually gets to him.

"They look at me and say, 'I don't know how I got here,"
Morneau said with a smile.

They seldom do.

Liriano allowed just one hit while striking out six in seven
innings and Morneau homered to lead the Minnesota Twins to a 4-0
victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.

Liriano (5-1) carried a no-hitter into the fifth before Javy
Lopez managed the Orioles' lone hit against the 22-year-old
left-hander.

The Dominican has been stellar since entering the starting
rotation on May 19. He walked two and went to three-ball counts a
number of times on Sunday, but his ability to throw a 91-mph slider
at any count kept the Orioles off balance all game.

"He misfires sometimes, but it's a good misfire because he can
come back with some of the nastiest pitches you've ever seen,"
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Orioles starter Erik Bedard (5-6) was equally tough through the
first three-plus innings, allowing just a single to Morneau while
in pursuit of his first win in five starts.

The Twins finally got to him in the fourth, perhaps spurred by
Gardenhire's fifth ejection of the season.

Gardenhire was tossed when he came out to argue after home plate
umpire Ed Rapuano ruled that Michael Cuddyer fouled a pitch into
catcher Ramon Hernandez's glove for strike three. Replays showed
Cuddyer never made contact and may have checked his swing.

Even after getting tossed, Gardenhire stood in the batter's box
and mimicked swinging a bat several times before finally stomping
off to the cheers of the home crowd.

With Joe Mauer already on base, Morneau hit his 14th homer of
the season on the very next pitch for a 2-0 lead.

Bedard looked to be on the ropes in the fifth when he walked
Nick Punto, gave up an infield single to Luis Castillo and walked
Lew Ford to load the bases.

He then fell behind 3-0 to Mauer, who entered the day hitting a
league-leading .388 and having reached base four times in each of
the last five games, but rebounded to strike him out. Bedard
followed that up by fanning Cuddyer and Morneau to escape the
inning unscathed.

"That was good for him to do something like that, but in the
total picture he's got to get us past that and take us deeper,"
Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said.

Chris Britton relieved him to start the sixth, and Bedard
finished with the two runs and five hits with a season-high nine
strikeouts in five innings. Since starting the season 4-0 with a
2.77 ERA, Bedard is 1-6 with a 7.26 ERA in his last 10 starts.

"I just need to try to throw more strikes," Bedard said.

The Twins tacked on two more runs in the sixth off the normally
stingy Britton, who has only allowed the opponent to score in three
of his 17 appearances.

Nick Punto doubled home Tony Batista and then scored on a single
by Castillo to make it 4-0.

But Liriano undoubtedly was the star of the show in his longest
outing of the season. He went to work with a casual cool that
belies his age and defies convention.

While many of today's top starters are sequestered before the
game, deep into their pregame routines, Liriano hung out in the
clubhouse, lounging on the couch with teammates who were watching
Mexico play Iran in the World Cup.

When talking about his fast emergence as one of the dominating
starters in the league, Liriano was equally unfazed, brushing the
praise and hype aside.

"I don't even think about it," Liriano said. "I don't really
listen to it. I just keep going out there and doing what I'm
doing."

Once he took the mound, he was all business, and the Orioles
were no match.

Baltimore fell to 5-14 on the season when facing lefty starters
and is hitting a league-worst .215 against lefties.

"He had all his pitches working good and had good command of
them," Orioles catcher Ramon Hernandez said. "When he can throw
any pitch for a strike at any time, it's pretty tough to beat."

Game notes
Torii Hunter snapped an 0-for-9 skid with a single in the
fourth inning. ... Mauer went 1-for-4 with a single to end his
streak of games in which he reached four times at five. Elias
Sports Bureau was checking to see if that is a record. ... Cuddyer
struck out four times. ... Corey Patterson singled in the eighth
off Juan Rincon and Miguel Tejada doubled off Joe Nathan in the
ninth for Baltimore's other hits.