MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Rookie Francisco Liriano allowed five hits in seven innings for his first major league win, and Justin Morneau hit a grand slam to lead the Minnesota Twins over the Detroit Tigers 7-3 on Friday night.

Liriano (1-2) tied a career high with eight strikeouts and outpitched Mike Maroth. Maroth (14-14) failed in his attempt to become the first Tigers left-hander with 15 wins since Justin Thompson in 1997.

Morneau broke open the game in the eighth with his first career grand slam off Jamie Walker, spoiling a solid start from Maroth.

Maroth wasn’t bad, he just wasn’t as sharp as Liriano. Maroth gave up four runs and nine hits with three strikeouts in 7 1-3 innings.

Brandon Inge homered for the Tigers, who lost their third in a row as the season winds to a close, which certainly isn’t helping manager Alan Trammell’s chances at returning for another season.

The former star shortstop for the Tigers has one year remaining on his contract and said he could hear as early as Monday from ownership on whether he will be asked back for another season.

Liriano was the biggest reason for Trammell’s latest loss. With a fastball that touched 96 mph to complement a biting slider, Liriano delivered his best start since being called up from Triple-A on Sept. 2, throwing just 72 pitches and not walking a batter.

It was an about-face from his two previous starts. Liriano threw 98 pitches in six innings of a loss to Chicago in his last start, and 93 pitches in just 3 2-3 innings of a loss to Oakland on Sept. 20.

Juan Rincon pitched a perfect eighth and Jesse Crain allowed a sacrifice fly to Magglio Ordonez in the ninth.

Liriano cruised through the first five innings, making just one mistake to Inge in the third. He left a pitch up in the zone, and Inge drove it 406 feet to right-center field to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.

Inge nearly took a run away from the Twins in the bottom of the inning when he made a diving stop at third of a grounder by Luis Rodriguez. But Inge’s throw from his knees to home was a little left of the plate, allowing Jason Bartlett to score and tie the game.

Matthew LeCroy broke out of an 0-for-17 slump in the fourth when he hit his 16th homer of the season into the seats in left, giving the Twins their first lead at 2-1.

The Tigers seemed poised for a big inning in the sixth when they had three one-out singles in a row, the last one coming from Placido Polanco that scored Infante to tie the game. But Liriano got Chris Shelton to ground into a double play to end the inning.

The Twins came right back with a run in the bottom half. Lew Ford beat out an infield single and advanced to second on a throwing error by Inge. He advanced to third on a single by LeCroy and scored on Jones’ sacrifice fly.

Notes: Inge’s homer gave the Tigers at least one extra-base hit in 69 of their last 70 games and 57 home runs in their last 39 games. … Craig Monroe came into the game with a .368 career batting average in 47 games against Minnesota, but he went 0-for-4 on Friday night. … The Twins’ 675 runs easily rank last in the majors, behind even lowly Kansas City (689).

AP-ES-09-30-05 2229EDT


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