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Liriano out for season after re-injuring elbow; A's win

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Francisco Liriano has heard plenty about Cy
Young during a spectacular rookie season.

Alan Schwarz and Steve Phillips take a closer look at Francisco Liriano's season-ending injury.

To listen to the podcast, click here.

Now that he is out for the rest of the season, another pitcher
might be entering the conversation -- Tommy John.

Liriano's highly anticipated return to the Minnesota rotation
came to a sudden halt because of elbow problems Wednesday and Dan
Haren pitched eight shutout innings, leading the Oakland Athletics
over the Twins 1-0.

"Obviously he won't be pitching again," manager Ron Gardenhire
said. "Something is in there bothering and continuing to stop him.
... Obviously when he gets in game and puts a little extra torque
in there, something is not right. We have to make sure we stop it
and do what we have to do."

The Twins' lead in the AL wild-card race was cut to 1½ games by
Chicago, which beat Los Angeles 9-0.

Pitching for the first time in more than a month, Liriano
slumped off the mound in the third inning. Trainers and Gardenhire
immediately rushed out to attend to the All-Star lefty and a hush
fell over the crowd that had been so excited to see him back in
action.

"The last two pitches I threw, I felt a pop and it really
hurts," Liriano said.

Liriano walked slowly toward the dugout and fans gave him a
standing ovation -- clearly, they were wondering whether they had
seen the last of him this year.

The Twins, leading the AL wild-card race, announced later that
he had pain in his left elbow.

He had an MRI exam after the game, and thoughts immediately
turned to Tommy John surgery, a ligament-replacement procedure that
typically keeps pitchers out for more than a year.

Liriano said he has was waiting to hear from team doctors about
the next move.

"I don't even want to think about that," Twins pitching coach
Rick Anderson said when asked about Tommy John surgery.

A strong Rookie of the Year candidate, Liriano was 12-3 with a
2.19 ERA before leaving a start against Detroit on Aug. 8 with a
strained ligament in his arm.

The Twins were determined to be extra cautious with his
recovery, but the 22-year-old Liriano showed no signs of problems
during a rehab start for Triple-A Rochester last Saturday.

Everything seemed to be going so well on Wednesday.

Liriano breezed through the first two innings against the A's,
striking out two. But after giving up a bloop single to Nick
Swisher to start the third inning, Liriano threw ball one to Bobby
Kielty and that was it.

"This guy has a bright future," center fielder Torii Hunter
said. "Maybe we just need to let him heal for the offseason and
have him back for spring training. ... Hopefully he can get it
taken care of and come back next year or the year after next."

Matt Garza (1-5) pitched well in emergency relief, but he was
outdueled by Haren (14-11).

Haren struck out seven and allowed three hits and Huston Street
picked up his 32nd save to help the Athletics avoid their first
three-game losing streak since July 23-25.

"Throughout this road trip, our starting pitching hasn't been
too good," Oakland manager Ken Macha said. "Danny really answered
the call."

The Athletics, who started the day 4½ games ahead of the Angels
in the AL West, scored in the sixth.

Milton Bradley singled and stole second base. Replays showed
that Twins second baseman Luis Castillo tagged Bradley before he
hit the bag, and Gardenhire argued with umpire Randy Marsh.

The call proved costly when Bradley scored on Jay Payton's
ground-rule double to give Oakland a 1-0 lead.

Losing Liriano puts an even greater strain on an already rickety
Twins rotation. Veteran Brad Radke has a stress fracture in his
right shoulder and may not return this season. Carlos Silva has
been wildly inconsistent and Scott Baker has pitched poorly.

By default, rookie Boof Bonser could be the team's No. 2 starter
behind ace Johan Santana.

"I can't make any decision right now," a subdued Liriano said.
"This was disappointing. I wanted to pitch. Nobody wants to be
hurt. There's nothing I can do about it. I just have to wait and
see."

Despite Liriano's injury, the Twins exhibited a quiet confidence
in the clubhouse after the game. When the lefty first was injured
on Aug. 7, the Twins were 10½ games behind the Tigers. They
responded by shaving nine games off the lead between his starts.

"It's not devastating. It's not earth-shattering," Michael
Cuddyer said. "It's very disappointing for him on a personal
level. But we've been here before."

Game notes
After his six-game homer streak ended on Tuesday, A's DH
Frank Thomas went 1-for-4 with a double on Wednesday. ... Twins C
Joe Mauer, the majors' leading hitter, did not start as usual on a
day game after a night game. He lined out to left in a pinch-hit
appearance in the eighth inning.