Liriano shaky, but just good enough to boost Twins

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Twins stuffed equipment bags and suitcases to their brims, preparing for two full weeks on the road and a defining stretch of this so-far successful season.

Before they left, they crossed one more item off the list -- another win over the lifeless Oakland Athletics.

Mike Redmond drove in two runs and the Twins survived some wildness by Francisco Liriano to beat the A's 3-1 on Wednesday and send them to an Oakland-record 11th straight series defeat.

The last time the A's lost 11 series in a row was 1960, when they played in Kansas City.

"It seems like when we're down, we're really down," Oakland's Emil Brown said. "It's not because of lack of effort. I can't really find the words to describe it."

The Twins won their 11th consecutive home series, improving to 30-9 at the Metrodome since June 1 in their last home game until Sept. 5. They play 14 straight on the road, the longest trip the team has had since 1969. Beginning Thursday against the AL West-leading Los Angeles Angels, only six of the next 30 games are in Minnesota.

"At the end, it's 81 and 81," closer Joe Nathan said. "This is just a longer stretch of it. I don't think anybody's concerned too much about it. Most of the talk here in the clubhouse was just making sure we had enough underwear."

The Twins, who are 26-31 on the road this year, are one game behind the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central.

"Just got to keep playing," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We can't control what they do until we see 'em at the end."

Liriano (4-3) was still strong enough to win with five innings against the A's, who are 6-25 since the All-Star break. The only run he allowed was unearned, caused by an error on sure-fielding second baseman Nick Punto when he suddenly couldn't find a groundball hit right to him by Mark Ellis to start the game.

Punto later stopped a two-out rolling single by Jack Cust with a dive that took him into shallow center field, but he didn't have time for a strong throw and Ellis scored easily.

Though he lowered his ERA this month to 1.14, Liriano was not sharp -- rushing his delivery toward the plate and failing to find the right motion. He threw a season-high 107 pitches, only 64 of them for strikes. He gave up five hits, walked three and struck out five against a lagging Oakland lineup batting .215 in the second half.

"I just couldn't find my spots outside," Liriano said. "It's just one of those days."

The A's were held to one run or less for the 34th time this year, more than a quarter of their games. They are averaging only 2.71 runs per game since the break.

"We really had some chances and hit the ball," manager Bob Geren said. "Just couldn't get the breaks."

Oakland starter Dallas Braden (3-3) actually outpitched Liriano, but with little support he couldn't overcome a pair of two-out RBI singles -- to Justin Morneau in the first inning and Redmond in the third. Giving regular catcher Joe Mauer a break for the afternoon, Redmond also drove in Punto with a base hit off Braden that made it 3-1 in the sixth.

Making his sixth start after some time in the bullpen and Triple A, Braden threw a season-high 102 pitches but struck out seven in 5 2/3 innings. He allowed six hits and walked three.

"Any time they land, it doesn't matter if you made a good pitch or not," said Braden, who allowed two bunt hits. "It wasn't the right pitch. I'm not happy. We lost."

The Twins have overexposed their bullpen lately, but Boof Bonser gave them a big lift with two hitless innings in relief of Liriano. The right-hander, bumped from the rotation in May, had struggled before a recent stretch of effectiveness.

Dennys Reyes walked Cust to start the eighth, but Jesse Crain retired the next three. Nathan worked the ninth for his 34th save, and the Twins walked off winners for the sixth time in seven games -- finishing the homestand at 7-2.

And off they went.

"We have to monkey it up and find a way to win baseball games," Gardenhire said.

Game notes
The Twins activated 2B Alexi Casilla from the DL after the game and outrighted RHP Brian Bass to Triple A. ... The A's plan to skip Sean Gallagher's next start, and probably Justin Duchscherer's, too. ... Bonser had a 8.74 ERA in his first 14 relief appearances, but in six games since his ERA is 2.89 -- three earned runs in 9 1/3 innings. "Hopefully that will carry and bode well as we go along here," Gardenhire said. "We're going to need him." ... The A's have lost 11 of their last 13 at the Metrodome. ... Reyes faced only one batter for the 17th time this season. ... Cust struck out twice and leads the AL with 158. ...Infielder Matt Tolbert will return to the Twins on Sept. 1, the day when rosters can be expanded to 40 players.