Updated: May 3rd, 2011 9:21pm
Twins Daily: Francisco Liriano throws fifth no-hitter in team history

Twins Daily: Francisco Liriano throws fifth no-hitter in team history

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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CHICAGO -- Minnesota Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano threw the fifth no-hitter in team history on Tuesday night in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.

The skinny

In 204 previous professional starts, Liriano had never pitched a complete game.

In his 205th on Tuesday night, he finally pitched nine innings -- without allowing a hit.

It certainly wasn't the most glamorous performance, as Liriano walked six while throwing only 66 of his 123 pitches for strikes. He struck out only two, and his command was suspect for much of the night, but the left-hander was just dominant enough -- with help from his defense -- to make history.

"It's pretty exciting," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I guess when you've lost six in a row, a no hitter usually works."

After retiring 11 in a row from the fifth through eighth innings, Liriano walked Ramon Castro before inducing a 4-6-3 double-play ball off the bat of Gordon Beckham to push his no-hit bid into the ninth. The play was controversial, however, as second baseman Alexi Casilla's throw pulled Justin Morneau off the bag, yet first base umpire Paul Emmel ruled that Morneau applied a tag.

The play wouldn't have resulted in a hit either way, and Liriano eventually went on to retire the Sox in the ninth -- but not until after a fantastic scoop by Morneau, a walk to Juan Pierre and a lineout by Adam Dunn to end the ballgame.

"I was pretty excited," Liriano said afterward, barely showing any emotions beyond what he'd express after a routine start. "I can't explain myself right now. I'm very happy, very excited. I had a rough start to the season, so it's very exciting."

The mild-mannered Liriano stood on the edge of the mound with a giant smile as catcher Drew Butera and the rest of his teammates ran out to mob him.

"I'd pay money to sit in the stands and watch that," Gardenhire said. "That's good stuff."

"I think that's the greatest thing in the world watching them all out there jumping on Frankie. Because they were all probably happier than he was. He's happy, but the players were probably happier because they like being a part of that. That's pretty cool."

Turning point

With two outs in the seventh, White Sox right fielder Carlos Quentin hit a hard hopper behind the third base bag that appeared destined for the corner. But Danny Valencia made a spectacular back-handed stab and fired a bullet to Justin Morneau at first base to retire the side and preserve the no-hitter.

"I kind of knew what was going on, obviously," Valencia said. "That situation, there's a ball hit down the line, is it going to be fair or foul, so I went back on it, it took a bad hop, I got it in my glove, and I'm going, 'oh no, I've got to make the throw.' And luckily I got enough behind it to get there."

Valencia added, "You're kind of on-edge a little bit because you're nervous, you want to make every play, you want to go hard after everything because you know what's on the line. Not to mention it's a one-run game, so even if they get one guy on, they're one swing away from possibly winning."

Several Twins players agreed that Valencia's play signified that a no-hitter was indeed very possible.

"I think once Danny made that defensive play, I think all of us were like, 'this might happen,' because that was a hell of a play," Denard Span said. "He had to make a long throw, and it was just a great play."

Numbers game

4: Twins pitchers to throw no-hitters prior to Liriano -- Jack Kralick (1962), Dean Chance (1967), Scott Erickson (1994), Eric Milton (1999).

4,252: Days since the Twins' last no-hitter, thrown by Milton on Sept. 11, 1999 against the Anaheim Angels.

8: The number of walks issued out by Edwin Jackson -- Liriano's mound opponent on Tuesday night -- in his no-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays last June. Jackson threw 149 pitches that night as well.

0: The number of complete games for Liriano in 204 professional starts prior to Tuesday.

12: Career home runs for Jason Kubel at U.S. Cellular Field after his solo blast in the fourth inning.

Overheard


"Oh, I almost threw up. I'm telling you. Top of the ninth, had to run up and grab a bottle of water because I had nothing in my throat, it's like in Jaws, I couldn't spit. I had to get a bottle of water and suck it down.I wanted it for him so bad, that your mouth gets so dry."
- Gardenhire, talking about his nerves in the late innings.

"I told him you tell Andy to stick those mechanics up his ass."
- Gardenhire, jokingly, when asked about Liriano's recent conversations with pitching coach Rick Anderson about inconsistent mechanics.

"Everybody was walking away from me, and nobody was talking to me, so I was like, 'what's going on?'"
- Liriano, who said he didn't realize he had a no-hitter until the eighth inning.

Health report

• DH Jim Thome was scratched from Tuesday's lineup with a sore left oblique. Thome last played on Saturday after missing four games with the same ailment.

• C Joe Mauer (bilateral leg weakness) will partake in baseball activities -- throwing and light swings -- on Wednesday for the first time since being placed on the disabled list three weeks ago. "As long as he doesn't have any setbacks we'll move him up," said team trainer Dave Pruemer, "but there's still no timetable."

• OF Delmon Young (ribs) is "feeling better each day," and he continues to take swings back in Minneapolis. Young is eligible to return from the disabled list on Wednesday, and while that target date clearly isn't realistic, there's a chance he could rejoin the team in Boston at the end of the current road trip.

• INF Tsuyoshi Nishioka (broken fibula) participated in on-field activities down in Florida on Tuesday, and he will "progress as tolerated."

On deck

With right-hander Nick Blackburn (1-4, 5.14) facing left-hander John Danks (0-4, 3.92). Wednesday's pitching matchup (1:10 p.m., 1500 ESPN) really leaves nothing to the imagination. Blackburn and Danks will forever be linked in AL Central folklore for their duel in Game 163 back in 2008, and both lineups know exactly what they're getting.

Danks has struggled against the current crop of Twins hitters, allowing a .315/.383/.552 batting line with 10 home runs in 227 plate appearances. Michael Cuddyer owns ridiculous numbers against Danks -- .458/.490/.875 with five home runs and five doubles in 51 plate appearances.

Blackburn hasn't fared much better, allowing a .307/.341/.416 line with three home runs in 177 plate appearances to the current crop of White Sox.

Coming up

• Thursday: Off.
• Friday: at Boston, 6:10 p.m. RHP Scott Baker (1-2, 3.16) vs. TBD.
• Saturday: at Boston, 12:10 p.m. LHP Brian Duensing (2-1, 2.91) vs. RHP Clay Buchholz (2-3, 4.81).

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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