MINNEAPOLIS — Not since the great Nolan Ryan in 1973 has a pitcher thrown a no-hitter twice in the same regular season. That could have all changed on a cloudy Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis when Francisco Liriano, just 4 starts removed from his May 3rd no-hitter in Chicago,charged towards doubling his luck by adding yet another no hit outing to his season.
The victim this time is a bit more impressive, the hot hitting Texas Rangers who are one of baseball’s best teams.
Liriano actually had a perfect game going for him and made it through nearly seven full innings before infielder Luke Hughes booted a ground ball and was charged with an error. The sellout crowd at Target Field rose to their feet and unleashed a standing ovation for Liriano, but he wasn’t out of the running quite yet.
The game was a nail bitter until that seventh inning. coming into it, the Twins bats were only able to give Liriano a 1-0 lead to work with but after his perfect game was ruined, the bats came alive in the bottom half of the inning. The Twins, bolstered by a Micheal Cuddyer 3-run homerun, scored 5 runs to give Liriano a 6-0 cushion to play with and the confidence that no matter what happened, his chances of getting the all important win sky rocketed.
The down side of the massive seventh inning surge by the Twins was the fact Liriano had to sit on the bench watching it all. He sat on the bench in 63 degree weather for 27 straight minutes. He came out in the top half of the eighth and and immediately went down 3-1 to Adrain Beltre. Liriano then delivered a pitch that Beltre had been waiting for and he blasted it to center. The ball hit the green Target Field grass before anyone could get to it effectively ending Liriano’s no-hit bid.
Liriano finished the rest of the eighth innings allowing just one run. The win improves Liriano’s streak of winning games in which he pitches into the sixth inning. All four of his wins have come when Liriano pitches 6-plus innings which is a trend all Twins pitchers need to catch onto.
Liriano’s second no-hitter would have come at the perfect time as the Twins are seemingly being consumed by a new winning spirit and have had a new life breathed into their season. The even without the no-hitter, Liriano’s win seals up the Twins 9th in the month of June, their best start to a month all season. In fact this is the best 12 game stretch they have had all year long and is finally giving the Twins faithful something to — well have faith in again.
But despite his second no-hit bid, Liriano is still just 4-6 on the season and is just 1-2 in his last three starts. It’s hard to knock a guy after he has just thrown his second no-hitter of the season but regardless, Liriano needs to keep winning. A guy can throw two no-hitters but lose the rest of his games, wins are a must after this.
But for now, Liriano can bask in his glory we all thought he was capable of when he debuted with the Twins in 2005. Everyone said if Liriano could pitch the way he was then, that he’d be as dominant as the pitcher he was essentially replacing: Johan Santana. After his Tommy John surgery everyone said the exact opposite. Liriano has now found some middle ground and his proving everyone wrong. Even though he didn’t complete the no-hitter, the fact he flirted with his second of the season is something to be proud of especially for a guy like Liriano.
If two no hit bids within 4 starts of each other isn’t a bounce back, then I’m not sure what one is.
Liriano could have joined the ranks of Allie Reynolds, Virgil Trucks and Nolan Ryan who all doubled up on their no-hitter luck in 1951, 1952 and 1973 respectivly. Roy Halladay threw two no-hitters last season, but one came in the post season so he technically isn’t on this list. Take it for what it’s worth, but Liriano’s value has never been this high. But nevertheless, Liriano has now joined the ranks of elite pitchers.
Now he just needs to consistently pitch like one.