Minnesota's Francisco Liriano entered Tuesday night's start with a 9.13 ERA and a precarious hold on his job, but threw a no-hitter to beat the Chicago White Sox 1-0.
Entering this season, if you were making a list of no-hitter candidates, Liriano would have been somewhere near the top, as he ranked second in the American League last season with 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings.
Well, maybe not too near the top of the list; before Tuesday night, Liriano had started 94 games in the major leagues without completing even one of them. He'd started 110 games in the minor leagues without completing one of those, either.
Still, he was a candidate.
This season? Not so much. Considering Liriano's performance in April, if you were making a list this season, he wouldn't have been near the bottom because he wouldn't have been on the list at all.
After Liriano's last start, though, he was told he'd been inconsistent with his release point this season. Maybe that made a difference Tuesday night. Or maybe it didn't, as Liriano walked six White Sox and struck out only two, making this particular no-hitter (at least) doubly bizarre.
The Twins needed every shutout inning, as their anemic lineup managed just one run against White Sox starter Edwin Jackson and reliever Matt Thornton. The game's only run came when Jason Kubel led off the fourth inning with a homer to right field.
The best defensive play behind Liriano came with two outs in the seventh, when third baseman Danny Valencia ranged into foul territory to snag Carlos Quentin's sharp ground ball, then made a strong throw to nip Quentin.
Liriano entered the ninth inning having thrown 101 pitches. Brent Morel led off with a grounder to shortstop Matt Tolbert, with first baseman Justin Morneau making a nifty scoop to record the out. Juan Pierre followed with a walk, Liriano's sixth. But Liriano got Alexi Ramirez on a pop to shortstop. Which left only Adam Dunn between Liriano and some measure of immortality.
Once more, Liriano struggled to throw strikes, the count running to 3-and-0. But Liriano threw a called strike, then got Dunn to swing and miss, then foul off another offering. Finally, Dunn lined Liriano's seventh pitch -- and 123rd of the game -- right at Tolbert, who secured the 27th out, along with Liriano's place in the record books.
It might not have been a masterpiece. But Francisco Liriano shouldn't have to worry about Kevin Slowey taking his job for a while.