May 4, 2011

So ugly it’s beautiful: Francisco Liriano no-hits the White Sox

I guess he'll be staying in the rotation for a while.

Making his first start since Ron Gardenhire spoke publicly about dumping him from the rotation in favor of Kevin Slowey if things didn't improve soon Francisco Liriano and his 9.13 ERA took the mound against the White Sox and threw the Twins' first no-hitter since Eric Milton in 1999. And the funny thing is, Liriano was hardly at his sharpest or most overpowering. In fact, it may not have been one of the dozen most dominant starts of his career.

Liriano's velocity was good but not great, as his fastball topped out at 94.2 miles per hour and averaged 92.5. His slider, which is typically Liriano's best pitch, registered just four swinging strikes on 40 offerings. He didn't miss many bats with just two strikeouts, but also didn't really pitch to contact by falling behind 19 of 30 hitters, throwing nearly as many strikes (66) as balls (57), and walking six (including slap-hitting Juan Pierre three times).

Last season and through his first five starts this year the Twins' defense repeatedly let Liriano down, leading to him posting MLB's highest batting average on balls in play, but last night that same defense saved his piece of history on multiple occasions. Before anyone had any notion of it being a special night Denard Span made a terrific running grab in the left-center field gap, preserving the no-hitter and keeping two runs off the board in what proved to be a 1-0 game.

Danny Valencia made a fantastic play for the final out of the seventh inning, snagging Carlos Quentin's hard ground ball down the third-base line and unleashing a strong throw across the diamond. Justin Morneau kept the ninth inning from getting off to a bad start by scooping out a low throw from shortstop Matt Tolbert for the 25th out. Even the final out was a screaming line drive off the bat of Adam Dunn that found Tolbert's glove.

It wasn't pretty to watch, but history doesn't have to be and Liriano seemed genuinely awed by the moment while doing on-field interviews after the final out. He's been through an awful lot since a spectacular 2006 rookie season was cut short by an elbow injury and his road back from Tommy John surgery was filled with potholes that still trip him up five years later, so while a six-walk, two-strikeout no-hitter won't cure all that ails Liriano it had to feel damn good.

And hopefully it can also be the start of the Twins' turnaround.

24 Comments »

  1. It was nice to see smiles on the players faces after the game. I forgot what those looked like. Congrats to Liriano, maybe some of that bad luck from last year was repaid tonight.

    Comment by Ben — May 3, 2011 @ 11:41 pm

  2. This was amazing. I loved hearing the post-game interview, because it seems as if I rarely ever hear him get interviewed. This really helps the morale, I’d imagine. Good defense by the team and nice job by everyone to stay composed at the end since it was just a 1-run game.

    Kubel keeps raking!

    Also, has there been a more enigmatic Twin ever?

    Comment by Zach Morris — May 3, 2011 @ 11:57 pm

  3. Can someone smarter then me (which is most of you) tell me who the other 4 Twins no hitters were? I remember Erickson and Milton and I know the 5 inning one by Chance doesn’t count, but I’m having a brain fart on the other 2??

    Comment by Pat — May 4, 2011 @ 12:38 am

  4. Hopefully Liriano doesn’t pitch like Buehrle after Buerhle threw his no hitter.

    Comment by alex — May 4, 2011 @ 1:48 am

  5. If you’re wondering whether this will turn things around for our club, the answer is hells no. Think of the last two Twins no-hitters: they had the worst staff in baseball in ’94 when Scott Erickson threw his (I sat behind home plate for that game :) ) and the ’99 team (when Eric Milton threw his) was one of the Twins’ worst teams ever. Still, since clinching the Central last September, this is literally the first good thing that’s happened to the Twins. So thanks, Frankie.

    And thank you, Dick Bremer, for eschewing Baseball Superstition by repeatedly noting that Liriano had a no-hitter going. I was watching the NBA playoffs last night. During a commercial I flipped to the Twins, and Dick said there was a no-hitter through six. I stuck with it from then on…

    Comment by Neil T. — May 4, 2011 @ 4:56 am

  6. Pat,

    Chance also threw a 9 inning no hitter that same month in ’67, and Jack Kralick had the first one in “62.

    Comment by Obie Holmen — May 4, 2011 @ 6:43 am

  7. Enigmatic is a great way to describe Liriano – another Twin that comes to mind in that way was Mike Marshall, and, at least before 1977, Carew.

    Comment by marietta mouthpiece — May 4, 2011 @ 7:22 am

  8. Thanks, Obie

    Comment by Pat — May 4, 2011 @ 8:59 am

  9. In the olden days, “enigmatic” usually meant the guy had little tolerance for BS, either from the front office or the media.

    Comment by curt — May 4, 2011 @ 9:29 am

  10. Anybody have a link to Hawk Harrelson’s call of the no-hitter? His call of Thome’s walk-off last year made it so much sweeter.

    Comment by Ross — May 4, 2011 @ 9:47 am

  11. It was nice to see the Twins all over ESPN last night for something good. Congratulations to Lirano for a great game.

    It would have been nice, though, to score more than a single run to back him up. That game was in doubt until the last Chicago batter was out. I see now that Drew Butera is hitting exactly .100. The Twins regularly put sub .200 batters in their lineup (three last night) but can you really put a guy out there if he is hitting less than .100?

    Comment by Pedro Munoz — May 4, 2011 @ 9:48 am

  12. If were counting the franchise’s beginning as the Washington Senators, Bob Burke and Walter Johnson also threw No-Hitters.

    That certainly was fun to watch, can’t get much more “effectively wild” than that. Congrats Frankie! Now go back out today and get ‘em again Twins!

    Comment by Steve L. — May 4, 2011 @ 9:55 am

  13. there was nothing screaming about that final out. a line drive? yes. screaming? no.

    Comment by scott — May 4, 2011 @ 10:05 am

  14. They don’t award style points for a no-no! This was a great moment for a struggling team. Might help them all.

    Comment by Josh — May 4, 2011 @ 10:16 am

  15. @Ross

    I heard Hawk Harrelson was actually home sick last night, so we’ll never get to enjoy that piece of top-notch broadcasting.

    Comment by JS — May 4, 2011 @ 10:53 am

  16. There has never been a better time to TRADE Liriano. Strike while the iron is hot.

    Anyone else disturbed that the average pitcher in the NL’s BA is .130, and we’re getting worse from multiple positions? Ouch.

    Comment by ML — May 4, 2011 @ 12:20 pm

  17. That was great coaching, and great listening. Rick may be on to something with this enigmatic player.

    Yes, the “screaming” liner from various announcers was too much. Gilding the lily.

    Morneau continues the tradition of great acting by Twins first basemen. The only difference is Hrbek would’ve denied it in the post game interview.

    Try imitating the scoop Morneau did on Tolbert’s throw and look at how close your wrist comes in on your body. Amazing play keeping the glove opening up as the ball wants to shoot out. Only a hockey player can do that.

    Comment by brian — May 4, 2011 @ 12:44 pm

  18. I’m interested in people’s take on this:

    AG continually (and correctly) points out Kubel’s awful numbers against lefties as a reason to potentially platoon him or at least drop him in the line-up. On the telecast they are constantly talking about Kubel “letting the ball get deep” so he can take it the opposite way. Is this new approach allowing him to neutralize lefties and erase this weakness or is he simply on a hot streak and will return to his career norm sometime soon?

    Comment by UGH — May 4, 2011 @ 1:21 pm

  19. Our Wednesday starting 9 is possibly the worst on paper I’ve ever seen — 7 of the 9 hitters are at .220 or below. I wonder how that stacks up against the all time worst…

    Comment by Scott — May 4, 2011 @ 2:41 pm

  20. Can someone smarter then me (which is most of you) tell me who the other 4 Twins no hitters were? I remember Erickson and Milton and I know the 5 inning one by Chance doesn’t count, but I’m having a brain fart on the other 2??

    As was said earlier, Dean Chance did throw a regulation 9-inning no-hitter as well.

    Chance’s 5-inning no-hitter was actually a perfect game through the 5 innings that were played before being called for rain.

    So, the no-hitters in Twins history are: Liriano 2011), Milton (1999), Erickson (1994), Chance (1967), and Jack Kralick (1962).

    Comment by Son of Shane Mack — May 4, 2011 @ 11:01 pm

  21. I have never heard of a ugly No No, they are beautiful every time!

    Comment by hsbaseballdad — May 5, 2011 @ 5:51 pm

  22. Off the subject, I know, but when one cruises Aaron’s Top 20 prospects, and checks them against (early) performance, it’s a little discomfittng….

    Comment by birdofprey — May 5, 2011 @ 9:54 pm

  23. Where are all the people questioning Liriano’s mental toughness now? Thought that was his big problem, just not “mentally tough.” “Thinks too much.” “Can’t finish what he starts.”

    Comment by Lirianoshead — May 5, 2011 @ 10:21 pm

  24. Let’s see what Liriano can do tonight. I think it will be a long time before someone throws back to back no hitters again.

    Comment by How To Hit A Home Run — May 10, 2011 @ 3:52 pm

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