Francisco Liriano took the mound tonight on a cold Chicago evening looking to save his spot in the rotation. He had struggled mightily so far in 2011 and there were rumblings he might be taken out of the starting rotation if he couldn’t put together a decent outing against the White Sox. On a night where he needed to be good, he ended up being great, etching his name in the record books by throwing a no-hit bid against the White Sox.
It depends on who you speak to about how well he really threw the ball Tuesday in Chicago. I was at US Cellular Field and he looked good to me. He did a fantastic job of changing speeds and keeping the hitters guessing. His change up looked very good from my seat(which was very good, by the way, club level between first and home). However, he struggled mightily to locate his fastball all night, eventually tallying six walks when it was all said and done. However, Tuesday night it seemed a different Francisco Liriano showed up. This version was not rattled by the cold or a few walks. This version of Liriano battled a White Sox lineup that is struggling, but definitely potent. Juan Pierre drew three walks on the evening and, at one point, was at second after stealing a base, but Liriano was able to end that inning without allowing Pierre to advance further. I was extremely impressed with how Liriano kept his composure and never fell victim to that one big inning and believe me, there were chances for the Sox.
To me, a no-hitter is a no-hitter. I had some of my Sox fan friends texting me after the game about how bad Liriano looked and that the Sox offense was just that bad. But to me, Liriano was good enough to get 27 outs without giving up a hit and that is pretty darn impressive. He was helped out by a few nice defensive plays, too. Danny Valencia made a tremendous play to end the seventh on what was a sure-thing double by Carlos Quentin. After that play it felt like it was meant to be. The defense was behind him making plays and there was a feeling in the stadium that it was Liriano’s night.
In the larger scheme of things, this could be a monumental moment for this club. I wrote yesterday that the day off was just what Minnesota needed and it seems like this could be the type of event that snowballs into something for the Twins. Liriano was basically pitching for his baseball life out there tonight and he delivered. Edwin Jackson was almost as good, as the Twins bats didn’t really show up again, but the fact that there was no pitching implosion tonight is a good sign. I think the Twins could really build on this and hopefully it is the type of team-unifying event that helps right the ship. Sunday was probably the low point of the 2011 season for the Twins and I think tonight’s performance has the chance to be a pinnacle moment for the Twins.
It was just one outing for Liriano and he has to show he can continue this success, but it’s not like he doesn’t have the track record for success. I had a guy say to me on the way out of “The Cell” tonight, “It wouldn’t be so bad, but Liriano is terrible.” I replied, “Yeah, lately.” To which the Sox fan said, “Yeah, like the last three years.” He was obviously misinformed as Liriano was one of the best pitchers in baseball last season. Nothing about this is a fluke to me. The guy has great stuff and the fact that he was able to throw a no-hitter without his best stuff is all the more impressive. Liriano is all about confidence and this is the type of outing that he needed to build upon going forward. The Twins aren’t in the clear yet, but man, a game like tonight should give everybody some hope.