With the way the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox both limped into U.S. Cellular Field, there was little indication their first game of the season would be noteworthy for any reason other than the sorry state of both teams.
And yet baseball's fates have a way of surprising us when our guards are down the most.
On a dark Tuesday night in Chicago, Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano(notes) finally put a bright spot on his and his team's year, no-hitting the White Sox 1-0 for the fifth no-hitter in franchise history and first since Eric Milton(notes) threw one in 1999.
Not that the first no-no in the bigs this season was easy, likely or anything resembling pretty. Liriano entered the contest having never thrown a complete game in his six-year career and his season ERA before the game was a chubby 9.13. He had lasted only three innings in his previous start against the Tampa Bay Rays.
His in-game numbers weren't much better. Liriano issued six walks to Pale Hose batters, threw only 66 of his 123 pitches for strikes and struck out only two batters. Only 12 of the 270 no-hitters in big league history have featured two or fewer strikeouts, the last coming when Jerry Reuss of the Los Angeles Dodgers struck out two in 1980.
Indeed, Liriano's no-no is going to garner a lot of blog headlines for being of the unimpressive or lucky variety. He escaped three innings via double play and got the benefit of a close/missed call at first to get out of the the eighth inning. If we're going by Bill James' game score, Jeff Sullivan of SB Nation notes that Liriano recorded an 83, which ties him for the lowest game score ever recorded by a pitcher in a no-hitter. (Edwin Jackson(notes), Wednesday night's opposing pitcher, recorded an 85 when he threw a no-hitter with 149 pitches and eight walks last June.)
[Related: Liriano's unimpressive no-no still counts]
And yet it seems a little sad for our knee-jerk reaction to be one that immediately penalizes Liriano for the element of luck that every no-no pitcher has used to put their name in the record books. Liriano's feat might not have mirrored Roy Halladay's(notes) performance in last year's NLDS, but on a night when he and his team needed a victory in the worst way, he, his defense and the baseball gods somehow turned his pitch-to-contact approach into a headline-making victory. His luck might catch up to him over the next few starts, sure, but there's no need for him to apologize for it now.
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