MINNEAPOLIS -- Former Minnesota Twins starter Francisco Liriano came close to no-hitting his ex teammates on Saturday when the Chicago White Sox started the left-hander as an afterthought in order to give a few of their rotation pitchers some extra time to rest.
Liriano responded with his best game since defeating the White Sox on June 25 as a member of the Twins, when he went seven innings and allowed just one run on four hits.
“He threw great,” Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He was getting ahead, seemed like he had a lot of confidence out there -- just throwing strikes.”
The victory was Liriano’s second of the season against his former team. He didn’t allow a hit until Trevor Plouffe's two run homer with two outs in the seventh.
The veteran pitcher had been told three different possibilities as to what role he would have over a five-day period.
“When you have bad times you just have to stay focused,” Liriano said. “You have to keep working and try to get better. I wouldn’t win anything if I get mad. If I would get mad I would do some stupid things.”
The White Sox had become mystified by the soon-to-be free agent’s inconsistency. Almost as much as his former team had been before trading him to Chicago on July 28.
Paul Konerko has faced the very good Liriano as well as the guy who sometimes self destructs with location issues, and has an opinion on what separates the good Liriano from the bad.
“Just throwing enough strikes to make you swing the bat,” said Konerko, who had three RBIs, including his 23rd home run, on Saturday. “He has crazy amounts of movement on his sinker and a heck of a slider.
“He never really gives up a lot of hard-hit balls. Many times he doesn’t go out there and get shelled, usually it’s a couple, two, three walks and a hit or two that give up runs. If he doesn’t do that, he is usually all right, just like he was today.”
Liriano won his sixth game of the season, two of which came against Minnesota and one against his present team.
“It was a matter of location for him today,” catcher AJ Pierzynski said. “He just looked better. He looked like he had a better feel and idea of what he was doing.”
Adam Dunn had a successful return to the lineup after missing seven games over eight days with a right side oblique strain. The Sox DH chipped in with a single a double and a walk in three official at-bats.
“It felt fine,” Dunn said. “I didn’t try to swing as hard as I could have. “It felt good.”
It takes a different hero every day when a team gets down to the championship weeks of the regular season. Reliever Matt Thornton pitched out of a mess left to him by closer Addison Reed to get a save.
Reed loaded the bases with nobody out in the ninth inning before Thornton induced Justin Morneau to hit into a double play and then retired Plouffe to end the game.
“That ‘s what it takes to win,” Thornton said. “Someone has to step up and do a great job. Adam had a couple of hits and Paulie had the big home run. (Liriano) was outstanding.”