Nobody in the starting rotation actually tossed a no hitter or a perfect game or anything like that, but these were almost as good:
1) Scott Baker, June 16th (boxscore), game score of 84: Baker pitched seven innings of two-hit ball, striking out twelve and allowing just one walk. Of course, Baker got shelled in his very next start, surrendering five runs on nine hits in six innings against the Brewers. And that, in a nutshell, is Scott Baker.
2) Carl Pavano, June 20th (boxscore), game score of 84: Pavano out-dueled Roy Halladay, scattering four hits and surrendering one run over nine innings. Since he only struck out a couple of batters, and he did surrender a solo homer to Wilson Valdez, this performance ranks second to Baker’s gem against the Rockies. Actually, this game kind of sums up Pavano’s entire season pretty well: he didn’t walk many batters, he missed an average number of bats, and other than the home run, most of the balls he put into play somehow found a glove. Fun fact: Pavano lead the American League in complete games this year, with seven. I am going to miss that mustachioed man.
3) Nick Blackburn, August 28th (boxscore), game score of 84: Yes, he faced an historically bad Mariners’ offense, but Blackbeard’s 2-hit complete-game shutout was a masterpiece nonetheless. Mr. Never-Misses-a-Bat whiffed two batters in this game, and recorded six strikeouts in total. That in and of itself is kind of a miracle, so I’m tempted to put this performance at the top of the list. But, since both Baker and Pavano were even more impressive against much tougher lineups, I’m not going to.
4) Francisco Liriano, April 27th (boxscore), game score of 83: In his best start of the season, and what would prove to be a tantalizing preview of things to come, Liriano shut down the Tigers in Comerica Park. He scattered four hits over eight innings, while striking out ten (though six were looking) and allowing one walk. If he had recorded a few more swinging strikeouts, I would probably consider this the best performance by a starter this year, but home plate umpire Paul Emmel did have a pretty generous strike zone.
5) According to game score, it’s Brian Duensing’s August 14th start against the Athletics, but I disagree. His game score of 83 may technically be the fifth-best by a Twin this year, but the Dunce really wasn’t brilliant, and he was facing a pretty mediocre Oakland offense. He only surrendered three hits in nine innings, but he also only struck four and walked two, so obviously the BABIP gods were smiling upon him that day. I tend to think that Liriano’s August 1st performance against the Mariners was much more impressive (though it was against a much weaker lineup), so I’m putting that one at number five. His game score was slightly lower (82), but that’s only because he didn’t pitch as many innings. Liriano recorded the same number of walks as Duensing, but he allowed just two hits and struck out eleven (seven swinging) over seven innings.