Ron Gardenhire says Twins “talking about our options” with struggling Francisco Liriano

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Ron Gardenhire indicated today that Francisco Liriano could be in danger of losing his spot in the Twins’ rotation after going 1-4 with a 9.13 ERA through five outings, telling Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com that “we’ve been talking about our options with him.”

Kevin Slowey moved from the rotation to the bullpen because the Twins had six starters for five spots and is now on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, but his rehab assignment involves building up his pitch count in case he’s tabbed to replace Liriano.

Asked about Liriano’s confidence, Gardenhire noted that “it hasn’t been good” and added “that’s kind of why we’re working on Slowey … in case we have to decide after his next start whether we’re going to do something.”

Liriano was fantastic last season, posting a 3.62 ERA with 201 strikeouts in 192 innings while his secondary numbers suggested he’d have been even better if not for some shaky defense and/or back luck behind him. Instead of progressing into a clear-cut ace this season Liriano has taken several steps backwards with his command and velocity while failing to make it past the fifth inning in four of five starts.

His struggles come after the Twins questioned his offseason conditioning and trade rumors briefly swirled following reports that they had no interest in signing Liriano to a long-term contract extension, which certainly looks like a wise decision right now. He’s gone from ace in the making to possibly getting bumped from the rotation. It’s unclear if Minnesota’s “options” with Liriano would involve a trip to the DL or a move to the bullpen, but the Twins seemed frustrated with the 27-year-old left-hander even when he was thriving.

Astros extend winning streak to 11 games

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The Astros rallied late to keep their winning streak alive, extending it to 11 games with a 7-4 victory over the Royals on Sunday afternoon. The club is now 48-25, leading the Mariners by a full game in the AL West.

The Royals took a 4-2 lead after three innings, but Brian McCann knocked in a run with a single in the top of the fourth to cut the deficit to one run. Carlos Correa hit a game-tying solo home run in the eighth. The Astros kept their foot on the gas, scoring two more runs on RBI singles from Evan Gattis and Marwin Gonzalez in the top of the eighth and another in the top of the ninth on Correa’s sacrifice fly.

Starter Lance McCullers allowed four runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks with nine strikeouts over six innings. Tony Sipp worked a scoreless seventh. Ken Giles did the same in the eighth. Hector Rondon finished off the win in the ninth, working around a one-out walk with a game-ending double play.

After winning all 10 games on their road trip against the Rangers, Athletics, and Royals, the Astros will head home for a nine-game homestand against the Rays, Royals, and Blue Jays. Each club is below .500.