MINNEAPOLIS -- Target Field has not been kind to Francisco Liriano in 2018.
For the second time this season, the 34-year-old Liriano was roughed up in a road start by the Twins and saw his night end early Thursday as the Tigers fell, 9-3. In his final start of the 2018 campaign, Liriano was gifted an early 3-0 lead, but was forced to exit early due to tightness in his back and tossed just 2 2/3 innings.
"The back just tightened up on him," Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire said. "And then into his hip, and then into his side a little bit. There was no way -- he was having a hard time breathing out there. Something about he was trying not to land on his front foot. Every time he landed hard on his front foot, he felt some shooting pain. Just had to get him out of the game."
Liriano was hindered by the same injury during a start in Houston in July.
After he walked Twins outfielder Robbie Grossman to load the bases with two outs in the third, Tigers trainers came out to the mound to check on Liriano, and he was eventually replaced by Louis Coleman. Minnesota jumped on the Detroit right-hander right away when Christopher Austin and Willians Astudillo knocked back-to-back two-run hits to give the Twins a 5-3 lead.
Things only unraveled further from there for Detroit. Austin, Astudillo and Max Kepler all drove in runs in the fifth off lefty Matt Hall to push Minnesota's lead to 9-3.
Detroit had the bats going early and scratched out a first-inning run against Twins opener Gabriel Moya. But after Minnesota's offensive onslaught, the Tigers stranded runners in the fifth and sixth innings and weren't able to spark a rally.
Liriano provided fans in Minnesota plenty of exciting moments during his six-plus years in a Twins uniform. But in two starts in Minneapolis this season, he has yielded 12 runs -- eight of which were earned -- in 4 1/3 innings. He finishes the season with a 4.58 ERA in 133 2/3 innings of work over 27 appearances. He will become a free agent at the end of the season.
"Just hoping to find a job and do whatever -- starter or reliever," Liriano said. "I would like to come back [to Detroit] and be with the guys. We have great teammates and great coaches. I've been with those guys for a long time, so I would like to come back."
With the exception of Thursday's start, Liriano was excellent in the month of September. He tossed at least five innings and held opponents to three runs or fewer in each of his previous four starts. He said that the lower back tightness struck at the start of the game and worsened as the night went on, but even while he was battling the injury, he still managed to touch 93.4 mph with his fastball.
"Francisco's been pitching a long time," Gardenhire said. "He's still got a good arm, he still throws the ball in the 90's. You know, we might have to change from starting rotation to something out of the bullpen somewhere. He's got options. The kid can still pitch; he's got good stuff. He can still get people out at this level."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
It didn't take long for Detroit left fielder Christin Stewart to leave his mark on Thursday's game. Minnesota's first batter of the game, Joe Mauer, ripped a hard line drive to left in the first, but Stewart tracked back and made a sensational leaping grab to take away extra bases.