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Liriano falters vs. Twins as Tigers can't rally late

MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- Francisco Liriano's first start against his old team as a Tiger turned out to be a throwback to the growing pains he endured coming up with the Twins. With three runs on six hits and four walks over five innings, Liriano's outing in Saturday's 4-3 Tigers loss at Comerica Park reinforces the belief he'll remain a Tiger past the postseason roster deadline at the end of the month.

It's somewhat surprising, given the need for veteran left-handed pitching in various roles among contending teams. But between Liriano's allergy scare at the end of July, and his struggles with walks for much of the summer, the market has been relatively quiet on the 34-year-old southpaw. Though the Tigers rallied late in his latest start, nearly tying the game with a ninth-inning rally, it would take a similar pickup in interest for Liriano to head to a contender in time for a potential postseason run.

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DETROIT -- Francisco Liriano's first start against his old team as a Tiger turned out to be a throwback to the growing pains he endured coming up with the Twins. With three runs on six hits and four walks over five innings, Liriano's outing in Saturday's 4-3 Tigers loss at Comerica Park reinforces the belief he'll remain a Tiger past the postseason roster deadline at the end of the month.

It's somewhat surprising, given the need for veteran left-handed pitching in various roles among contending teams. But between Liriano's allergy scare at the end of July, and his struggles with walks for much of the summer, the market has been relatively quiet on the 34-year-old southpaw. Though the Tigers rallied late in his latest start, nearly tying the game with a ninth-inning rally, it would take a similar pickup in interest for Liriano to head to a contender in time for a potential postseason run.

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"I haven't had a good rhythm the last couple starts, not making pitches and walking a lot of guys," Liriano said. "That's been the whole problem for me."

His manager has some ideas.

"He's getting so rushed, it's like he's trying to throw a ball through a brick wall," Tigers skipper Ron Gardenhire said. "And when he does that, that's when he really misfires. He's gotta slow down, and it starts in his delivery. He'll have that pause every once in a while and then he's really jumping at them. He doesn't really need to do that with his stuff. That causes the ball to go all over the place.

"To me it's just all about slowing down. But he's always been a pitcher that's gonna have a pitch count. He does that, throws a lot of balls off the plate, and he can come back and throw three right down the middle. I've seen him for a long time. That's what he does."

Twins hitters didn't chase, especially early, and made it a rather wild ride for Liriano. He retired his first two batters on groundouts and had a 2-2 count on Miguel Sano in the first before missing the strike zone with his next nine pitches.

"Everything happened so quick," Liriano said. "Next thing you know, it's bases loaded, it's a 3-1 count."

It was actually a 3-0 count on Jorge Polanco before he took a called strike and hit a 3-1 pitch for a flyball out.

Liriano (3-7) was less fortunate in the third inning, when a leadoff walk and wild pitch put Eddie Rosario on and brought him in to tie the game. Tyler Austin's two-run homer in his first game as a Twin put Minnesota up for good in the fifth.

Video: MIN@DET: Austin crushes a 2-run homer in Twins debut

"He hung in there," Gardenhire said. "Give him credit for that. He hung in there and didn't let it blow wide open, but it was a lot of pitches."

Saturday's outing was the fifth consecutive start in which Liriano did not pitch into the sixth. He walked three batters in three of those, and at least three batters for the 10th time in his last 12 starts.

"One of my problems is getting a little too excited early," Liriano said. "Instead of just facing one hitter at a time, one pitch at a time and locating my pitches and let the guys behind me make some plays, I missed my spot a lot. I was trying too hard, I think."

By contrast, Twins starter Kyle Gibson (6-9) held down Detroit's offense after Jim Adduci's second-inning triple and James McCann's ensuing ground ball RBI single against the shift. With seven hits allowed over as many innings, Gibson rebounded from back-to-back losses against the Indians and beat the Tigers for the first time since last September.

Video: MIN@DET: Gibson strikes out 4 in 7 innings

"We didn't do too much for a lot of those middle innings because Gibby threw the ball really well," Gardenhire said. "I had him for a while over there on the other team, and he's found out what pitching's all about now. He's throwing strikes and he has good stuff."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Tigers rally in ninth: Niko Goodrum's second home run off his old team in as many nights, a two-run drive to right field, whittled what had been a 4-1 lead to a one-run game in the ninth.

Video: MIN@DET: Goodrum drills a 2-run home run to right

However, Trevor Hildenberger -- pitching the Twins' first save situation since trading Fernando Rodney to Oakland on Thursday -- left the potential tying run on base by retiring his final three batters in order, including McCann on a called third strike and JaCoby Jones swinging to end the game.

Video: MIN@DET: Hildenberger fans Jones and gets the save

SOUND SMART
With three strikeouts Saturday, Liriano has amassed 1,718 career strikeouts, two shy of tying Ubaldo Jimenez for sixth-most by a Dominican-born pitcher. Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez tops the list at 3,154.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
The Tigers had a surprise guest throw out the ceremonial first pitch when Victor Jose Martinez took the mound to throw to his father, Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez. The younger Martinez threw a strike, then met his dad between the mound and home plate for a big hug.

Tweet from @tigers: Un momento especial entre Padre e Hijo. pic.twitter.com/DRcc1ywmR5

VICTOR HIGHLIGHT PART II
Left fielder Victor Reyes found himself on the other side of the wall during the first at-bat of the game. Chasing down a fly ball during Joe Mauer's leadoff at-bat, Reyes flipped over the wall and got caught in the protective netting but suffered no ill effects. He finished the game and went 1-for-4.

Video: MIN@DET: Reyes caught in the netting in left field

HE SAID IT
"It says that we need to score a couple more runs a game." -- Gardenhire, when asked about the Tigers' 59 games this season decided by two runs or less

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Tigers tried to spark their offense with a double steal in the fourth inning and thought they had it when Goodrum seemingly slid in ahead of Sano's tag. After a Twins challenge, however, a review overturned the call, turning what would've been runners at second and third with one out into a runner on second and two outs. Gibson retired McCann on the next pitch to end the threat.

Video: MIN@DET: Twins challenge tag at third in the 4th

"They challenged it," said Gardenhire, who avoided a question about his surprise at the overturn. "Ron says nothing. I'm not getting in trouble anymore."

UP NEXT
After the Tigers retire Jack Morris' No. 47 at Comerica Park on Sunday, they'll send Matthew Boyd (6-10, 4.33 ERA) to the mound for the finale of their three-game series against the Twins. Kohl Stewart starts for the Twins in his Major League debut. Pregame ceremonies for Morris begin around 12:30 p.m. ET, with first pitch scheduled for 1:10.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Francisco Liriano