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For the first time since September of 1999, Twins fans got to witness a Minnesota Twins no-hitter! Francisco Liriano came into the game with an ERA over 9 and a manager’s threat that if he didn’t pitch better, he could be replaced in the Twins rotation by Kevin Slowey. He proceeded to walk the first batter he faced, Juan Pierre. But he got a double play. He got another inning-ending double header in the 2nd. It was anything but pretty. Liriano needed 123 pitches to throw his first career complete game. He threw just 66 strikes to go with 57 balls.
In a season that has been so rough for the Twins and so disappointing for their fans, a no-hitter certainly brings excitement. I obviously knew he was throwing the no-hitter early. In the 4th inning, I was already wondering how many innings he could get through. Danny Valencia made an absolutely remarkable play behind 3B in the 7th inning. Playing a deep 3B, Valencia went quickly to the foul line, and although the ball took a funny bounce, he made the play, planted and made a really strong throw to 1B. With a runner on in the 8th inning, Gordon Beckham grounded into a double play, even if he really was not tagged by Justin Morneau. Hey, I’m a Twins fan. I was just fine with that call.
On the first play of the 9th inning, Matt Tolbert fielded a ground ball, took about six or seven steps and threw to 1B. Justin Morneau made a tremendous scoop. It may have been an error to Tolbert, but would have been another out that Liriano would have needed to record. After a third walk of Juan Pierre, Liriano got Alexei Ramirez to pop out to shortstop. After falling behind Adam Dunn 3-0, he forced a full count and Dunn lined a shot to the glove of Matt Tolbert. The no-hitter was complete.
In that ninth inning, I couldn’t even type .It was the first butterflies and nerves that I have felt in a long time! Think about this… once Pierre was on 1B in the 9th, Ramirez and Dunn represented the winning run. All I could think was how awful it would have been for Liriano to get that far in a no-hitter and give up a game-winning home run. Devastating! But Liriano came through.
Considering where Francisco Liriano was coming into the start. Considering where the Twins were at as a team coming into the game. Despite the walks. It was pretty great to witness a no-hitter.
Does it mean that the Twins will suddenly turn things around and start winning? Of course not, but hopefully! Does it help answer where the Twins will get production from their offense? No. But for the day, who cares? Let’s just enjoy it!
The last Twins pitcher to take a no-hitter into the 9th inning was Scott Baker against the Royals. He issued a walk to break up the no-hitter, and then Mike Sweeney came on to pinch hit and blooped a single.
The last Twins pitcher to complete a no-hitter was Eric Milton in September of 1999 against the Angels. It was an 11:00 game on a Saturday morning that wasn’t even televised. The Twins lineup on that day was: Jacque Jones (CF), Denny Hocking (SS), Matt Lawton (RF), Terry Steinbach ( C), Todd Walker (DH), Corey Koskie (3B), Torii Hunter (LF), Doug Mientkiewicz (1B), Cleatus Davidson (2B).
Ramon Ortiz started that game for the Angels. Steve Mintz gave up a run in the 8th inning for the Angels. He has been coaching in the Twins organization since 2002, and he is now the pitching coach of the Ft. Myers Miracle.
I’m sure you recall that Scott Erickson got the final out of his 1991 no-hitter on a pop up, caught by Alex Cole in left field.
It wasn’t a pretty start for Liriano, but he needed it. The Twins needed it ,and their fans needed it too. Hopefully it can spur some momentum going forward for the team, but I guess we shall see. And, by the way, even though Drew Butera’s batting average (.100) is now half of Shin Soo Choo’s Blood Alcohol Level (.20), he does deserve a ton of credit for getting Liriano through that start last night.
That ninth inning was really exciting for me. It was nerve-wracking! But when Matt Tolbert caught the Adam Dunn line drive, what a great feeling. It was great seeing Liriano show some emotion and hit his glove. It was great seeing the Twins run out to him and embrace him. I’m sure they were not only excited to be part of something so special, but also happy for their teammate. It was great to see Liriano smiling before the ninth inning and then after the ninth inning. We haven’t seen that in a long time!
For much more on the no-hitter, the Twins and the White Sox, be sure to check out last night’s SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast. What are your thoughts? What was going through your mind? Feel free to discuss.