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Liriano shines again, K's 10 as Twins topple Indians

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Francisco Liriano and four Minnesota Twins
relievers struck out Cleveland batters so swiftly, the Indians
never knew what happened.

Liriano fanned 10 in five innings as the Twins tied a
40-year-old team record with 17 strikeouts overall in a 3-1 win
over the struggling Indians Sunday.

"Seventeen?" said Indians first baseman Victor Martinez. "No,
not that many. It was only one guy for five innings."

Told that Twins relievers Pat Neshek, Dennys Reyes, Juan Rincon
and Joe Nathan combined for seven more strikeouts over four
scoreless innings, Martinez was speechless.

"That many?" said catcher Kelly Shoppach after Cleveland
failed to get at least 10 hits for the first time in six games.
"Liriano was really tough, but give them all credit because this
team can hit."

The 17 strikeouts set a Cleveland team record for a nine-inning
game, one more than the Indians had June 4, 2004, at St. Louis. The
total tied the Twins' record for pitchers set May 6, 1966, at
Boston.

Liriano (12-2) gave up one run and four hits while walking
three. It was his third double-digit strikeout game this season as
Minnesota rebounded from its first loss in nine games.

The Twins improved to 9-3 after the All-Star break and 31-8
since June 8. Cleveland, which had accumulated 10 or more hits in
each of its five previous games, fell to 4-11 since July 4.

Liriano lowered his ERA to 1.93 and avenged a July 13 home loss
to the Indians. The hard-throwing lefty gave up four earned runs --
and three homers -- over five innings that day in 6-4 loss.
Cleveland has the only five earned runs Liriano has allowed in his
last five starts, during which he has a 1.37 ERA.

"I was throwing more fastballs, my pitches were working better,
and I was throwing inside more," said Liriano about adjusting
against Cleveland, which entered the game averaging 5.5 runs,
second-best in the majors.

He has been one of the few consistent bright spots on the road
for the Twins this season. Minnesota is just 19-30 away from home,
where Liriano is 7-1 with a 2.22 ERA.

The Twins bullpen allowed only two hits. Nathan fanned two in
the ninth for his 19th save in 20 chances.

"The bullpen did a super, super job," said Minnesota manager
Ron Gardenhire. "Neshek came in and threw very well. Somebody had
to bridge that gap to get to the later innings."

The Twins took a 3-0 lead in the third against Jake Westbrook
(7-6).

"Never should have happened," said Indians rightfielder Casey Blake. "Jake pitched his butt off and should have won, 1-0. We've
got to quit giving teams extra outs."

Jason Tyner blooped a bunt over the Westbrook's head to start
the odd rally. One out later, he was erased on a fielder's choice
before Nick Punto beat out a two-out bunt for another single.

"I've been thinking about that first bunt since it happened,"
said Westbrook. "I came in slightly, then saw it go up and gave up
on it. I'm still second-guessing myself."

Both runners advanced on a passed ball by Shoppach on the first
pitch to Joe Mauer -- who was then intentionally walked to load the
bases. Michael Cuddyer followed with a slow grounder up the middle
that shortstop Jhonny Peralta fielded behind the second-base bag,
but bobbled before throwing to first.

"That's a play that should be made," Indians manager Eric
Wedge said.

Cuddyer got credit for an RBI single, then Justin Morneau
grounded a two-run single just to the right of Peralta to make it
3-0.

The Indians broke through with a two-out rally in the fifth.
Shoppach singled, Grady Sizemore walked and Jason Michaels followed
with an RBI single to left to make it 3-1.

Cleveland had threatened in the fourth. After the first two
batters went down swinging -- making it six straight strikeouts for
Liriano -- Victor Martinez doubled into the left-field corner and
Blake walked. But Liriano struck out Peralta.

Westbrook allowed three runs and eight hits in six innings,
walking three and striking out four.

Game notes
The Twins are 63-1 when leading after eight innings. Since
the start of the 2003 season, they are 257-3 in that situation. ...
Punto went 2-for-4, extending his career-high hitting streak to 15
games. He has hit .393 (35-for-89) over his last 23 games. ...
Sizemore is hitting .500 (14-for-28) over an eight-game hitting
streak.