Series: Game 1 of 4

Cleveland leads 1-0 (as of 7/13)

Game 1: Thursday, July 13
Game 2: Friday, July 14
in 10
Game 3: Saturday, July 15
Game 4: Sunday, July 16

Indians 6

(41-47, 18-24 away)

Twins 4

(47-40, 30-11 home)

8:10 PM ET, July 13, 2006

Mall of America Field, Minneapolis, Minnesota 

123456789 R H E
CLE 030110001 6 8 1
MIN 000003100 4 6 1

W: C. Lee (9-6)

L: F. Liriano (10-2)

S: B. Wickman (14)

Indians feast on wild Liriano, top slumping Twins

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- At age 22, Francisco Liriano is still learning. After a sensational first half and a hurried trip to the All-Star game, it was apparently time for his next lesson.

Casey Blake, Jhonny Peralta and Travis Hafner homered against Minnesota's standout rookie left-hander, leading the Cleveland Indians to a 6-4 victory over the Twins on Thursday night.

Elias Says
Francisco Liriano
Francisco Liriano had won six straight starts before getting roughed up by the Indians. That leaves Dontrelle Willis as the only rookie pitcher over the last 10 years to win seven consecutive starts. The D-Train did that in 2003.

• For more Elias Says, Click here

Liriano (10-2), who watched his major league-leading ERA rise from 1.83 to 2.12, lost for the first time in seven starts and allowed one-fourth of the 12 home runs he has given up in his 117-inning career.

"I don't know what happened," said Liriano, who threw only 57 of 97 pitches for strikes. "It was one of those days when you can throw any pitch and they will hit it."

Blake, back from the disabled list after missing nearly a month with a strained muscle in his left side, had the first big blast -- a towering, tone-setting, two-run shot on a 1-1 changeup in the second.

"Guys are reading and hearing a lot about him, and all the hype is true," Blake said. "He's a great pitcher, so it was just nice to get off to a lead like that and get a couple runs early."

Cliff Lee (9-6) hung on for his sixth victory in eight outings -- giving up five hits, three runs (two earned) and three walks while striking out five in 5 2-3 innings.

After Nick Punto's RBI double off Guillermo Mota pulled the Twins within 5-4 in the seventh, Fausto Carmona worked a scoreless eighth. Bob Wickman did the same in the ninth for his 14th save after Kelly Shoppach extended Cleveland's lead with a homer off Jesse Crain.

"There's three teams ahead so we've got our work cut out for us," Lee said. "But it's nice to start with a win, and we're going to have to do a lot more of that."

Detroit leads the AL Central by two games over Chicago, 12 over Minnesota and 18½ over Cleveland, which was one of the early favorites in the division and clearly one of baseball's biggest first-half disappointments.

The Indians can draw faint hope from strong second halves in each of the last two seasons, including a 45-22 spurt after the All-Star game in 2005 that nearly caught the World Series champion White Sox.

"We're going to separate from the first half and come out here and put our heads down and work hard to be the best team that we can be," manager Eric Wedge said. "And we'll look up and see where we are at the end."

Nine of Lee's first 10 pitches were balls, and pitching coach Carl Willis paid an early visit to the mound. But Lee got Joe Mauer, the majors' leading hitter, to hit a fielder's choice and then struck out Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau to escape the first.

Lee didn't give up a hit until Shannon Stewart's bloop single in the fifth. Cuddyer's double in the sixth drove in the first run, and Morneau's sacrifice fly cut the lead to 5-2.

Cuddyer scored from second when Torii Hunter hit a dud between the mound and first base that Lee fumbled for an error as he tried to pick it up and collided with first baseman Victor Martinez.

The Twins, who surged over the .500 mark by winning 21 out of 23, lost four of five before the break to slow their momentum. A loss by their ace to start the second half sure wasn't the way they wanted to begin.

Liriano, a late addition to the AL squad who made a long, tiring trip from the Dominican Republic to Pittsburgh for Tuesday's All-Star game, had by far his worst start of the season.

He has one of baseball's best sliders, but the Twins have been trying to get him to rely on his fastball more and locate it better. He didn't do that very well, giving up five hits, five runs, four earned, and three walks while striking out six.

"I was kind of all over the place," Liriano said.

With the bases loaded on a single, walk and fielding error by Mauer, the catcher, Jason Michaels hit a sacrifice fly. Peralta went deep leading off the fourth, and Hafner hammered his 26th homer into the facade of the upper deck above right field in the fifth to make it 5-0.

"He was trying to get his focus, and it just wasn't there early in the ballgame," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He never really got settled in. It's probably, in the long run, going to help him. He's been going so good, and everything's been perfect and maybe something like this you learn from it."

Game notes

Cleveland's Ronnie Belliard had a career-long 14-game hitting streak end rather harshly with an 0-for-4, including two strikeouts and a double-play groundout. ... Minnesota ran out of left fielders with Stewart serving as the designated hitter. Regular Jason Kubel complained of sore knees before the game and was scratched. His replacement, Lew Ford, left after the fifth with what the team called a strained muscle on his right side. Punto moved from third to left to replace Ford, who was placed on the DL after the game. Outfielder Jason Tyner was called up from Triple-A Rochester to take his spot.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press