Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Francisco Liriano's No-Hitter Could Be Sign of Change

Just hours before the first pitch, I filed a piece talking about how the Twins had to find a way to get this wayward ship turned in the right direction quickly.

The notion that they have to play .630 ball over the rest of the season to match last year's win total wasn't daunting, because they don't necessarily have to finish with that kind of record to make the playoffs.

However, you can't keep scuffling along the way the Twins were and expect things to just start getting better.

Hopefully, Francisco Liriano started the ball rolling in the right direction Tuesday night.

Liriano threw one of the more improbable no-hitters in baseball history Tuesday in Chicago, as the Twins beat the White Sox 1-0. It's improbable for a slew of reasons:
  • Only 66 of his 123 pitches went for strikes, a strikingly low number.
  • He walked six batters and only struck out two, meaning his defense turned 22 balls in play into outs (three double plays).
  • Liriano entered this start 1-4 with a 9.13 ERA, the second-worst ERA to start a game by a pitcher who would go on to throw a no-hitter since the earned run became an official statistic in 1913.
  • He was only pitching with a one-run lead for most of the game, though there have been five 1-0 no-hitters in the last 20 years, so maybe that's not as big a deal as I think.
There is no doubt that things going on "between the ears" mean a lot for pitchers, perhaps more for pitchers than any other position in the game. For Liriano, this could be a huge development.

No, he wasn't throwing absolute filth Tuesday night. He was scattershot with his pitches, and he had trouble locating virtually everything. There will be -- unquestionably -- some fans (especially fans of the White Sox) who call this some version of an "accidental" no-hitter. It was the pairing of a guy who had decent stuff with a team capable of hitting the ball right at people.

But it's confidence for Liriano, and he needed that more than anything.

It's also a shot in the arm for a team that has seen nothing go right for 27 games. Between injuries and underperforming players, Minnesota has seen little that was worth celebrating this season. Now, they have that. They have the first no-hitter of the baseball season.

And no matter how much White Sox fans hate it, they can't ever take this one away from Liriano.

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