Minneapolis It had been awhile since Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire saw a smile from left-hander Francisco Liriano.
On Wednesday night, Gardenhire got to smile with Liriano, who had one of his best starts of the season as the Twins pulled within four games of AL Central-leading Detroit with a 7-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
Liriano (5-11), who last won on June 28 at St. Louis, allowed one run and three hits in seven innings — both tying season lows. He struck out eight, one shy of his season high.
“I didn’t try so hard, didn’t try to make perfect pitches,” Liriano said. “That’s the main thing. I tried not to overthrow.”
Joe Crede’s three-run homer that capped a five-run first inning helped as well, letting Liriano relax and throw 64.8 percent of his pitches for strikes — his highest strike percentage since his win against the Cardinals.
Brian Bannister (7-9) was roughed up for a second consecutive start, allowing seven runs and nine hits in six innings. He gave up seven runs in four innings on Aug. 7 against Oakland.
“The last two starts, I haven’t been the same guy,” Bannister said. “Pitches haven’t been crisp and the command hasn’t been quality. I’m fighting through it, but my teammates and especially the fans deserve better than what I gave them tonight.”
Bannister was spotted a 1-0 lead on Willie Bloomquist’s first-inning homer, but Minnesota’s offense came to life in the bottom half.
After Bannister retired the first two batters, the Twins rattled off five consecutive hits capped by Crede’s blast. Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer scored on the home run after hitting RBI singles.