Liriano fans 10 as Twins top Verlander, Tigers

DETROIT -- Francisco Liriano is looking and feeling good.

Look out.

Liriano pitched eight scoreless innings, leading the Minnesota Twins to a 2-0 win over the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday night in a start reminiscent of some from his dazzling rookie season in 2006.

"I had a lot of pitches working," he said. "That felt good."

Liriano (3-0) struck out 10, gave up the first of four hits in the fifth and walked one. Jon Rauch closed the game for his seventh save.

Liriano, who lowered his ERA to 0.93, got enough run support thanks in part to Detroit's shoddy defense.

Left fielder Ryan Raburn dropped what would've been the third out of the sixth to let Jim Thome score from first after he walked. Raburn seemed to get distracted by charging center fielder Austin Jackson just before the ball bounced off the heel of his glove.

"Thome running around the bases is always entertaining," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He only has one speed, and it just isn't as fast as most other guys."

Rookie second baseman Scott Sizemore made a wide throw on what should've been the final out of the seventh, allowing Michael Cuddyer to score, after fielding Thome's grounder in shallow right field.

"Sizemore probably panicked a little," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said.

Leyland and Justin Verlander, though, refused to blame the errors for the loss.

"They've kept me in some games I've had no right being in," Verlander said. "Is it tough? Yeah. I'm sure those guys will be the first to tell you that, but this is a team game."

Minnesota played the Tigers for the first time since beating them in the 163rd game last year to win the AL Central.

The division-leading Twins (14-6) will probably be tough to beat again this season, winning the first six series of a season for the first time in franchise history, especially if Liriano keeps pitching the way he did before elbow surgery stunted his career.

Minnesota has to hope, though, that Justin Morneau's stiff back isn't going to be a lingering problem. The star first baseman didn't play after the fifth inning, but Gardenhire said the move was made for precautionary reasons.

The 2006 AL MVP played his final game last season on Sept. 12 because of a back injury.

"It isn't anything serious or related to last year," Gardenhire said.

Liriano extended his scoreless innings streak to 23 games in the series opener at Detroit. He finished with his highest strikeout total since matching a career high of 12 against Detroit on July 28, 2006. That year, he went 12-3 in 16 starts and struck out 144 in 121 innings.

"I've had a couple 10-strikeout games in the Dominican since then, but that's really not the same," he said.

He missed the 2007 season recovering from Tommy John surgery and won a combined 11 games the past two seasons.

The Tigers were helpless at the plate against him -- often striking out looking -- until Miguel Cabrera led off the fifth with a double that was just out of Denard Span's reach in center. Detroit finished with five hits overall.

"He was tremendous," Leyland said.

Verlander (1-2) was pretty good, too.

He gave up an unearned run, struck out a season-high seven over 5 2/3 innings, allowed a season-low four hits and walked three. He had a 6.95 ERA entering the game.

"It's definitely a big step," Verlander said. "I felt 10 times better overall than I had at any point."

Verlander said the key was making an adjustment during his delivering to stay more upright.

"I found what I was missing," he said.

Game notes
Span threw his bat after being ejected after taking a called third strike in the eighth and later said he embarrassed himself, the team and umpire. ... Damon gave his teammates custom-made robes, adorned with the an old English "D" on the chest and their names and numbers on the back, before extending his hit streak to 14. ... Jackson is the first player to strike out in his first 19 games in the majors since at least 1920, according to baseballreference.com. ... Morneau struck out in each of his three at-bats against Verlander after reaching base in each of Minnesota's first 19 games, hitting in 16 of them.