Francisco “F-Bomb” Liriano has joined Jack Kralick, Dean Chance, Scott Erickson, and Eric Milton as the only Minnesota Twins to throw a no-hitter, blanking the Chicago White Sox for a 1-0 Twins victory.
The man who had never completed a game in his major league career before tonight walked six batters and tied a career high with 123 pitches thrown. At no point did victory, much less a no-hitter, seem certain, as the Twins offense consisted entirely of a Jason Kubel solo home run. But Liriano battled his way through the White Sox lineup to the very end, and even Dick Bremer’s constant mention of the no-hitter in process couldn’t jinx him. It seems pretty reasonable now to say that his spot in the Twins rotation is safe.
Interestingly, Liriano is now the 7th pitcher in the history of MLB to throw a no-hitter while pitching against a pitcher who has thrown one before. His mound opponent, Edwin Jackson, blanked Tampa Bay last year. Liriano joins Mark Buehrle (vs. Kevin Millwood in 2007), Jose Jimenez (vs. Randy Johnson in 1999), Jerry Reuss (vs. Vida Blue in 1980), Steve Busby (vs. Clyde Wright in 1974), and Jim Bibby (vs. Blue in 1973) in this strange but elite club.
Liriano got a little help along the way from the Twins defense. Denard Span made a running catch in the gap in left center in the 4th. The Twins also turned three double plays after walks, including one on which the Twins benefitted from a questionable call at first. Most impressively, Danny Valencia did his best Brooks Robinson impression to rob Carlos Quentin of a sure double and end the 7th.
In the process, Liriano’s ERA dropped from a Beer-League-Softball-like 9.13 to a slightly less alarming 6.61. It’s debatable whether he was “pitching to contact” tonight. He only struck out two batters, but he walked six. And he seemed to have trouble locating his fastball all night, instead relying on a steady supply of changeups mixed with an occasional slider.
But it doesn’t matter how it happened. Liriano provided Twins fans with what is undoubtedly the most exciting moment of a season that has been pretty dreary overall. Hopefully, this effort will provide the turning point the Twins need to drive their way back to the top of the division, where they belong.