Liriano Aces Big Test

In this edition of Twins Inside Pitch, Francisco Liriano outduels future Hall of Famer Roger Clemens, Justin Morneau is becoming a serious power threat, Jason Kubel is second among A.L. rookies in home runs despite playing in only 30 games, and much more.

The biggest game of left-hander Francisco Liriano's young major league career also looked like the best yet (at least until he gave up a two-run homer in the eighth inning).

In just his 11th career start, Liriano (7-1) faced the minimum through six innings, took a two-hit shutout into the eighth, lasted a career-high eight innings and beat Roger Clemens in the future Hall of Famer's nationally televised season debut.

If baseball fans didn't know who Liriano was before Thursday night, they do now. "That's as good as we've seen," Astros manager Phil Garner said of Liriano. "Let me say that again -- that's the best we've seen so far."

Liriano's ERA is 2.17 and would be leading the league if he had just 5 1/3 more innings to qualify -- but he doesn't only because he didn't join the rotation until May 19 and has only seven starts. In 66 1/3 innings, he has 74 strikeouts.

"It's pretty amazing," Houston shortstop Adam Everett said. "I think we faced one of the premier pitchers in the game right now."

REPLAY:
Francisco Liriano upstaged the season debut of Roger Clemens, out-pitching the superstar in a 4-2 Twins victory -- Minnesota's 11th victory in 13 games.

The Twins led 2-0 when Clemens left the game after five innings, having scored in the third on an RBI double by rookie Jason Kubel and an RBI single by Michael Cuddyer.

NOTES, QUOTES:

  • OF Chris Parmelee, the Twins' first-round draft pick (20th overall), signed Thursday with the club for a signing bonus worth $1.5 million. The 18-year-old left-handed hitter batted .407 with 11 homers and 26 RBIs as a senior this spring at Chino Hills (Calif.) High School.

  • CF Torii Hunter flied out and struck out in two at-bats against RHP Roger Clemens on Thursday, bringing his career total against the future Hall of Famer (including one playoff game) to 0-for-25 with 14 strikeouts.

  • 3B/1B Terry Tiffee, who's been working with manager Ron Gardenhire daily on his fielding at third, got his first start in four games Thursday, against RHP Roger Clemens, replacing INF Nick Punto, who had started looking like the regular third baseman. Tiffee drew a walk against Clemens in his first plate appearance, the lone time in the game he reached base.

  • LF Jason Kubel has played just 30 games since his recall from Triple-A but already is tied for second among AL rookies with six homers.

  • The Twins' sweep of Pittsburgh over the weekend and 2-1 series victory at Houston gave them a 5-1 road trip -- their first winning trip of the season.

  • 1B Justin Morneau, who had his 11-game hitting streak snapped Wednesday, came back with a 3-for-3 game Thursday that included a double and a homer. Over his past 12 games, he's hitting .438 (21-for-48) with seven homers and 20 RBIs.
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