BALTIMORE -- The Twins know that if they are to compete at all this season, Francisco Liriano needs to harness his top-of-the-rotation stuff.
Liriano did just that in Spring Training -- posting a 2.33 ERA with 33 strikeouts and just five walks in 33 innings -- but it simply didn't translate in his first start of the season against the Orioles on Saturday.
The left-hander looked more like the pitcher who had a 5.09 ERA in 2011 than the one who posted a 3.62 ERA in 2010, as he allowed six runs (five earned) over just four innings in an 8-2 loss in front of 31,532 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
"That's why he's going the second day of the season -- he's got great stuff," Twins catcher Joe Mauer said. "He'll be better. I thought he was pretty good tonight, but it didn't go our way."
To be fair, Liriano did strike out the first three batters he faced, and ended up striking out four batters and walking two.
But it unraveled after that first inning, as Adam Jones hit a solo shot to lead off the second on a fastball down and away, and it went quickly downhill from there.
He also wasn't helped by his defense, as the Orioles added two more runs in the third, keyed by an error from left fielder Josh Willingham on a hard-hit liner from Robert Andino that scored Ronny Paulino all the way from first base.
"I was getting behind in the count too much," Liriano said. "I made a couple of mistakes. I thought I still made some good pitches. I worked through some things. But some hits got through."
It was more of the same in the fourth, as Paulino and Andino both hit balls past third baseman Danny Valencia -- Paulino's went off Valencia's glove for a double, and Andino's went past him for a single. Willingham also made his second error of the game on Andino's single, which allowed two runs to score. Andino was able to score on a bloop single from Nolan Reimold later in the inning.
"They didn't kill the ball off of him, but he went deep in counts," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They rolled some balls through, and he had to battle his way through it. We missed a couple of plays, and it didn't work out for him. He's been throwing really good. We didn't play well behind him, and didn't get to some balls."
The Orioles, though, were happy to get off to a quick lead against Liriano, especially after he dominated in that first frame.
"Everyone knows Liriano, so to get to him early, that was good momentum for us," said Andino, who went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs. "Everybody one through nine had fun today."
The Twins' offense, meanwhile, struggled for the second straight night, this time against Orioles right-hander Tommy Hunter.
Hunter cruised through the first seven frames -- allowing just four hits, two of which didn't leave the infield -- before leaving the game in the eighth inning with the bases loaded and nobody out.
Minnesota managed to score two unearned runs after a Mark Reynolds error that inning, runs which came on RBI groundouts from Jamey Carroll and Mauer against reliever Pedro Strop, but it was all they could muster offensively.
Through two games, the Twins have yet to break out offensively, as Orioles starters have yet to give up an earned run through 14 innings.
"Collectively, we just haven't been able to get anything going the last couple nights," Mauer said. "I thought maybe we're trying just a little too hard to get it going. But hopefully we can get it going tomorrow."
The Twins are also still fighting to reach .500 for the first time since 2010, and dating back to last season, the club has won just one of its last 13 series.
But it's just the second game of the season, and Mauer said the Twins aren't ready to panic just yet.
"It's 160 more to go," Mauer said. "You obviously want to get off on the right foot. We were swinging the bats pretty good in Spring Training, but it hasn't really carried over. But tomorrow is a new day, and hopefully we'll get them going."