Mon Jun 13 01:52am EDT
Minnesota Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano(notes) dazzled and dominated the Texas Rangers for seven innings Sunday, his only baserunner having reached on an error. He needed only six more outs to complete a personal masterpiece — and his second no-hitter this season.
And then came "The Wait."
The Twins, who have one of the worst offenses in the major leagues (only four teams have scored fewer runs) picked the bottom of the seventh to wake up their bats, building on a one-run lead by scoring five times.
And they took forever to do it.
Between the offensive outburst and a slow pitching change prompted by an injury, the half-inning lasted 29 minutes. (Each half-inning in the game averaged about eight minutes, reports Jordan Schelling of MLB.com.) So, Liriano could do nothing but try and sit tight.
He wasn't as sharp when he returned to the mound nearly a half-hour later. Adrian Beltre(notes) lined a 3-1 pitch to center for a single to lead off the eighth, ending Liriano's bid for a second no-no.
"It didn't bother me physically, but I started thinking too much about that no-hitter," Liriano said [...]. "I tried to overthrow that inning and was trying to be too perfect. And I then [gave up] a hit when I got behind in the count."
Two batters later, the shutout was over, too. Liriano limited the damage there and the Twins went on to win 6-1. But history had been unraveled in the half-inning before.
Danny Valencia(notes), did you really have to knock Rangers left-hander Matt Harrison(notes) out of the game by hitting a line drive off his arm? Ben Revere(notes) — you prolonged the inning by hustling to first base on a dropped third strike. We already know you're fast.
And Michael Cuddyer(notes) — you're a thoughtful person — was it really necessary to hit a three-run homer? Think about how much time it takes to round the bases. What about a quick pop out? Save it for Scott Baker(notes) and Carl Pavano(notes), man.
"[Heck] no. No, you score as many runs as you can, especially against a team like that," Cuddyer said. "First and foremost you want to win. Obviously everyone wanted to see a no-hitter, everybody wanted to have that happen, but bottom line is, you want to win the game."
Cuddyer (slapping hands with Revere in the photo) is right, of course. But you can't tell me most Twins fans weren't thinking likewise about Liriano wasting away on the bench as his teammates awoke from their offensive slumber. The Twins manager sure considered it.
"It's almost like a rain delay there when you're at 70-something pitches and you have to sit out for 30 minutes," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "We kept telling him he had to get up and move around. And not only did he have 70 pitches, he had a no-hitter, too.
"So we told him to move around, because it was a long inning. So we were worried when he went out there. His first few warmup pitches weren't pretty. And his first few pitches were rushed out there."
Here's why it's too bad: Liriano, you might recall, received criticism for how he pitched during his no-hitter against the White Sox on May 3. Let's just say the first no-no of the major league season wasn't aesthetically pleasing.
Liriano came into that game with a 9.13 ERA and was perhaps on the verge of losing his spot in the rotation. He walked six, throwing 66 of 123 pitches for strikes, and struck out two batters. It was a no-hitter in name only.
Against the Rangers, Liriano was the force the Twins have been hoping for. Needing only 64 pitches to retire the first 18 batters, he was executing his "no-hitter stuff" to perfection.
"I felt better today. Way better," Liriano said, comparing this to his no-hitter.
And then, like they have all season, the Twins offense let him down. In a way.
So, while he didn't get no-no No. 2, Liriano did show that he obviously is worthy of being on the list of guys who have no-hitters. And, if the Twins can't get back into the AL Central race, he increased his trade value by a factor of 10.