ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Francisco Liriano, passed over for the
All-Star game, is pitching like he deserves to be there.
Francisco Liriano became only the second rookie to head into the All-Star break with at least 10 wins and a sub-2.00 ERA. The other was Jerry Koosman of the Mets; he headed into the 1968 All-Star break with a record of 11-4 and an ERA of 1.94.
Liriano allowed four hits in seven innings to win his sixth
straight start and the Minnesota Twins beat the Texas Rangers 4-0
Saturday night to stop a three-game losing streak."It's their loss, it's the nation's loss, it's the world's loss
not to see that young man pitch," said Twins manager Ron
Gardenhire, disappointed Liriano didn't make the AL team. "But
mistakes are made. Let's hope they don't make any more with
Liriano."Liriano (10-1) struck out eight and walked three, lowering his
ERA to 1.83. His seven innings made him eligible for the league
leaders and he took over the top spot in the American League,
surpassing teammate Johan Santana (2.76).Santana starts against Texas on Sunday.Liriano, who leads all major league rookies with 102 strikeouts,
took the All-Star snub in stride. He'll use the break to visit his
family in the Dominican Republic."I'm not disappointed," Liriano said. "Maybe I can make it
next year. I wish I could have made it but I can't worry about
it."The Rangers got only two runners as far as third against Liriano
-- Gerald Laird with two outs in the sixth and Mark DeRosa with two
outs in the seventh. Liriano got Michael Young to ground out to end
the sixth and retired Kevin Mench on a grounder in the seventh."There are a few guys who have great stuff in the major leagues
and (Liriano) is one of them," Young said. "He's got a great
fastball, slider and change so you can't sit on one pitch. But I
don't care who is pitching, as an offense you've got to find a way
to push a run across the plate."Juan Rincon and Joe Nathan pitched the final two innings as the
Twins combined for a shutout for the third time in Liriano's last
six starts.Texas, which scored 18 runs in the previous two games, managed
only one extra-base hit off Liriano on DeRosa's leadoff double in
the fifth. That's where DeRosa stayed as Liriano retired the next
three batters, two on strikeouts.Torii Hunter homered, Jason Bartlett had a two-run double and
Nick Punto had three hits to help the Twins end their longest
losing streak since a four-game skid June 3-7.The Twins took control with a three-run fifth off Rangers rookie
John Rheinecker (4-3).Hunter gave the Twins a 1-0 lead with his 14th homer, a 424-foot
drive into the Twins' bullpen in left-center on the first pitch."It was a curveball and I wanted to put a good pass on it,"
Hunter said. "I saw it hanging and wanted to do something with
it."Shannon Stewart and Lew Ford followed with singles and Bartlett
drove them both in with a double into the left-field corner.Rheinecker allowed three runs and nine hits in six innings."Torii hit a breaking ball and the location was a little off,"
Rangers manager Buck Showalter said. "It's tough. Liriano is on
his game so you know runs are going to be at a premium."Minnesota threatened in the fourth inning when Luis Castillo led
off with a double and stole third. Castillo tried to score on Joe
Mauer's one-out flyball to left, but Jerry Hairston Jr.'s throw to
catcher Laird easily beat Castillo.Hairston's throw atoned for his fielding blunder on Castillo's
double. Hairston took a bad angle on the line drive and the ball
dropped to his left as Castillo raced to second.The Twins stretched their lead to 4-0 in the ninth on Stewart's
RBI single off Scott Feldman.
The Rangers were shut out for the fifth time this season.
The Twins have four shutouts. ... DeRosa had two of the Rangers'
six hits. ... Texas' Gary Matthews Jr. grounded into a double play
in the third, his first of the season. Matthews had gone 317
at-bats without hitting into a double play, second-longest streak
in the AL. ... Stewart snapped an 0-for-15 slide with his
fifth-inning single. ... Mauer, who started the day with a
league-best .388 average, went 0-for-4. ... Liriano's 1.83 ERA also
is the lowest in the majors. ...Minnesota's Justin Morneau
stretched his hitting streak to a career-high 15 games with a