Liriano, Twins Nearly No-Hit Pirates


Remember that game three days ago when the Pirates embarrassed the Twins 17-6? I think it’s even now. Today the Twins utterly dominated Pittsburgh in every facet of the game with a 10-0 victory. It was probably the most satisfying victory of the spring for the Twins.

Okay, there was one unsatisfying aspect: it was not quite a no-hitter. Francisco Liriano held the Bucs hitless over five innings, then Jeff Gray and Sam Deduno each added a hitless frame. Luis Perdomo started the eighth with a groundout, but then Brandon Boggs ruined everything with a single (C’mon, Boggs! This game was meaningless. Couldn’t you have just struck out and made us happy?). The good news is that Brian Dinkelman gunned down Boggs as he attempted to stretch the single into a double, but he still got credit for the only Pittsburgh hit. Sure, it’s Spring Training, so the games do not mean anything, but it would have been pretty exciting to see a no-hitter in March. Spring Training records are difficult to come by, but as far as I can tell, there has not been a no-hitter in the Grapefruit League since the Marlins blanked the Tigers on March 22, 2009. If anything, a Spring Training no-hitter is probably more rare than a regular season one, since even a dominant starter gets removed from the game after a few innings, thus giving the opponents a chance to score a cheap hit off a young reliever.

Liriano was great today. Aside from journeyman first baseman Jake Fox, who drew a two out walk in the second, no Pirate reached base against the Twins’ enigmatic ace. Liriano rebounded from the Fox walk by striking out Nate McLouth. Liriano fanned six Pirates in all, and it added up to a brilliant rebound performance after a bad third inning in his last outing against the Blue Jays. For the spring, he has 18 strikeouts in 13 innings now, with a 2.76 ERA and 0.50 WHIP. We all know Spring Trianing stats do not mean much, but it sure would be nice to think that Liriano could carry on some of that stingy pitching into April. Casey Fien also did very well. He finished the game by striking out the side 1-2-3 in the ninth. He now has six strikeouts in 4.1 Grapefruit innings, and he has not allowed a hit.

On the hitting side of the equation, the Twins did equally well. Jamey Carroll snapped out of a slump with a pair of hits and a couple RBI. Top prospect Brian Dozier replaced him and socked a home run to start a seventh inning rally. Joe Benson added a pair of hits as well. In fact, the only players who really did not join in the hit parade were star hitters Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, who went a combined 0 for 5 (though Morneau did knock in a run with a  groundout).

There was one other negative turn of events today. Trevor Plouffe came off the field after singling in the seventh. The injury is not thought to be serious, though.

All in all, it was a great game for a Spring Sunday. Whether you were listening while mowing the lawn or while recovering from a St. Patrick’s Day hangover, you could not have asked for a better effort from the Twins.