Cleveland 4, Twins 0

April 19, 2008

I’ve been feeling bad lately about my extreme lack of blog postings, but there are only so many hours in a day — and I work pretty much all of them.

So I’ve decided that to prove I’m actually working and not completely ignoring this, I’ll start posting my stories and links to them in here so that I don’t feel so bad. Twins fans should enjoy it, since most of the time they will be Twins gamers (editors note: I reserve the right to correct any errors that my editors either didn’t catch or actually added to my story, which I can’t stand!).

I’ll also give credit to those who employ me — this is a PA-Sportsticker story.

Indians’ Lee shackles Twins

By Anthony Maggio PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) — Cliff Lee has been effective in the past, even winning 18 games in 2005. But now he’s becoming dominant.

Lee struck out eight hitters for the second straight game and pitched eight shutout innings to lead the Cleveland Indians past the Minnesota Twins, 4-0, on Friday.

Lee (3-0) lowered his ERA to 0.40 in three starts this season, allowing just two hits and facing one more than the minimum in his eight stellar innings.

“I’m just locating my fastball pretty good right now, I think that’s the key to all of it,” Lee said. “When you’re locating your fastball and working it in and out and up and down, everything else comes off that.”

Lee got all the run support he would need on Casey Blake’s two-RBI single in the second inning, walking only one batter and erasing two of the three baserunners he allowed with double-play grounders.

“He’s been about as consistent as you can ask a starting pitcher to be his first three starts this year,” Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. “He’s just doing a very good job with his fastball and working everything off that. Whereas maybe before he had control of it, now he’s commanding it around the plate and that’s been a separator for him.”

The fastball has been an Achilles heel for his counterpart, Francisco Liriano, who was making his second start this season coming off “Tommy John” surgery in 2006. He appeared to have his devastating slider at times, but couldn’t throw his fastball for strikes consistently.

“My breaking ball is doing fine, I just can’t locate my fastball where I want it,” Liriano said. “I think I’m rushing too much on my fastball, trying to make a perfect pitch. It’s not working that way, so I’ve just got to calm down and get better.”

Liriano (0-2) allowed three runs on four hits with five walks and three strikeouts in five innings. He has walked 10 and struck out seven in 9 2/3 innings pitches this season.

“He has a little better command of the breaking ball and he gets a little breaking-ball happy,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We all know that the first thing in the big leagues you’ve got to learn to get back to is the fastball in the zone. He’s just flying off and rushing a little bit and trying to throw it too hard.

“He’ll get there, it’s just a matter of being on the mound.”

After both pitchers struck out two and retired the side in order in the first inning, it appeared a pitchers’ duel was on tap. But while Lee stayed consistent, Liriano lost control in the second.

Ryan Garko walked to lead off the frame and Jhonny Peralta followed with a single. Jason Michaels walked on four pitches two batters later to load the bases, setting up Blake’s two-RBI single.

Liriano worked around a pair of walks the next two innings, but Kelly Shoppach singled with one out in the fifth and Jamey Carroll coaxed a two-out walk to set up Victor Martinez’s RBI single.

Meanwhile, Lee was nearly unhittable, allowing only a Delmon Young walk through the first three innings.

After Matt Tolbert managed a single to lead off the fourth inning, Lee erased him on Joe Mauer’s double-play grounder. Lee didn’t allow a baserunner again until Mauer singled with one out in the seventh, but he again erased him immediately on a Justin Morneau double-play grounder.

Lee, who has allowed just one earned run in 22 2/3 innings pitched over his first three starts, struck out eight Twins following his eight-strikeout performance against Oakland on Sunday.

Blake’s seventh-inning homer – his first round-tripper of the season – put his former team in a 4-0 hole.

It also gave Blake his first multi-hit game of the season, upping his average 28 points to .180.

“It’s been tough early going here, but this game is about making some adjustments, it’s about confidence,” Blake said. “I’m starting to get some confidence right now.”

The closest the Twins got to a run off Lee was Craig Monroe’s warning-track fly ball to left-center field to end the eighth inning.

Rafael Perez worked around a Nick Punto infield single in the ninth inning.

Punto, Tolbert and Mauer had the only hits for Minnesota, which has lost five of his last six games and three of its last four at home. Cleveland has won eight consecutive games against the Twins and eight of its last 10 games in Minnesota.

Meanwhile, Lee improved to 3-0 with a 3.21 ERA and 24 strikeouts in his last six starts against the Twins dating to September 11, 2005.


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