Mauer (5 hits) backs up Liriano's strong outing in Twins' win

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Francisco Liriano is making an early case for
the American League Rookie of the Year award.

Liriano threw seven sharp innings and Joe Mauer had a
career-high five hits to help the Minnesota Twins beat the Los
Angeles Dodgers 9-2 Tuesday night.

Liriano allowed two runs and five hits. He struck out eight for
the Twins, who have won six straight and 14 of 15. They are 12-2 in
interleague play.

"For two young men to do what they are doing, that's
incredible," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said of Mauer and

Liriano (8-1), who moved into the Minnesota rotation May 15, has
won six of seven starts. His ERA is 1.76 and opponents are hitting
.170 against the 22-year-old over that span.

"It's very early in his career, but I was very fortunate to see
Pedro (Martinez) in Boston," Dodgers starter Derek Lowe said.
"Liriano is very similar as far as velocity, throwing any pitch at
any time. When you have that kind of stuff, it's easy to be as
poised as he is."

Minnesota, 26-10 at the Metrodome, has won nine straight at
home, holding each opponent to less than four runs, the first time
the team has done that since it relocated from Washington in 1961.
The team ERA in those games is 1.39.

Lowe (6-4) allowed six runs in the second inning and lost for
the first time since May 16. He was 5-0 with two no-decisions in
his previous seven starts.

The Twins loaded the bases with one out in the second and Lowe
hit Jason Bartlett to make it 1-0. Luis Castillo then hit a two-run
single and Nick Punto followed with a triple to drive in two more
runs. Mauer added a run-scoring single.

Mauer has six RBI in the first two games of the series. He is
13-for-17 with seven RBI in five career games against Los Angeles.

"I'm not trying to do too much. I'm just trying to take what
they give and it worked out tonight," he said.

Mauer has at least four hits in a game four times this season,
and is the first Minnesota player since Kirby Puckett on July
25-26, 1988, to have at least four hits in back-to-back games. He
went 5-for-5 against the Dodgers to raise his batting average to
.389, tops in baseball, after going 4-for-5 Monday.

"He's dedicated, he comes out and does his work and he's got a
great swing and you're seeing that," said Gardenhire, who won his
400th game as the Twins' skipper.

Lowe allowed a season-high nine earned runs and 12 hits in 5 1-3
innings in his shortest outing since opening day. His ERA increased
from 2.90 to 3.49. Lowe, who was coming off a complete game win
against Seattle on Thursday, dropped to 0-2 with an 8.04 ERA and
three saves in 11 career appearances in the Metrodome.

"I really don't know if I could pitch that bad if I told them
what was coming," he said. "For me it was demoralizing because in
the last few games I've turned things around after a bad first

Liriano kept the Dodgers' hitters off balance by mixing 96 mph
fastballs with changeups and a nasty slider.

"I had everything working tonight," he said. "I missed a
couple pitches, made a couple mistakes and got hurt."

One of those was a home run to Jeff Kent, who sees a bright
future for the left-hander.

"You just can't give a guy like that six runs," Kent said.
"He's a young guy, but he's got the makings of being a great
starter in this league."

Liriano's first pitch was hit by Rafael Furcal for a single, but
Liriano struck out two of the next three batters. He also struck
out two of the three batters he faced in the second inning.

"He's got some of the best stuff I've ever seen," Mauer said.
"With him going out there we feel pretty good about our chances of

Nomar Garciaparra extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a
fourth-inning home run for Los Angeles, which entered the night a
half-game ahead of San Diego in the NL West.

Game notes
The Dodgers placed RHP Brett Tomko on the 15-day disabled
list retroactive to June 24 with a left oblique strain. ...
Minnesota's Justin Morneau has hit safely in 17 of 18 games,
batting .403 in that stretch. ... Castillo knocked his own helmet
off when a foul ball went off the plate and hit the underside of
his brim. He hit a two-run single on the next pitch. ... Los
Angeles has lost 14 straight games in American League ballparks.
... Garciaparra has reached base in 47 of his last 48 games.