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Twins 1, White Sox 0

Liriano pitches no-hitter

Twins lefthander baffles White Sox

Lefty Francisco Liriano of the Twins struck out two and walked six in his no-hitter. Lefty Francisco Liriano of the Twins struck out two and walked six in his no-hitter. (C.R. Arbogast/Associated Press)
By Rick Gano
Associated Press / May 4, 2011

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CHICAGO — Francisco Liriano’s 123d pitch of the night headed to the plate, and Adam Dunn turned on it.

The ball streaked toward the left side of the infield. For an instant, it appeared Liriano’s no-hit bid might be shattered with one out to go.

Shortstop Matt Tolbert took two steps to his right, gloved the liner, spun around and raised the ball in triumph with his bare hand. Then he sprinted to the mound, where the pitcher was being mobbed by teammates, to personally deliver the prize.

On a cold night at U.S. Cellular Field, Liriano wiped away the memory of all those shaky outings this season, pitching a no-hitter that led the Minnesota Twins over the Chicago White Sox, 1-0.

“It was a crazy night,’’ said Liriano, who might have been pitching to save his spot in the rotation following a 1-4 start with a 9.13 ERA coming in.

“When I go out there I try to think positive,’’ he said. “I don’t want to think about, ‘They’re going to put me in the bullpen.’ I just try to do my best.’’

Liriano was running low on energy in the final innings, even as his pitches were still baffling the hapless White Sox and pressure mounted.

With the no-hitter within reach and his pitch count climbing, he relied on defense to help him finish.

“To be honest I was running out of gas,’’ he said. “I just thank my teammates that they made some great plays behind me tonight.’’

Liriano (2-4) walked six and struck out two in his first complete game in 95 major league starts. The 27-year-old lefthander, who reached the big leagues in 2005, matched his career high with 123 pitches.

“I can’t explain it. I feel so nervous and so happy right now,’’ Liriano said.

He survived a rocky ninth inning that began when Brent Morel grounded to shortstop and Tolbert made a one-hop throw that first baseman Justin Morneau scooped. Juan Pierre walked and Alexei Ramirez popped to shortstop.

Liriano fell behind Dunn 3-0 in the count, then got a pair of strikes. After a foul ball, Dunn followed with perhaps the hardest-hit ball off Liriano all night.

“I thought it was a base hit,’’ Liriano said. “When I saw him catch it, I was so excited.’’

Dunn dropped to 0 for 16 against lefthanders this season.

“As soon as I hit it, I saw him, and it was right to him,’’ Dunn said. “That’s pretty much the story of the day. There were some balls that, again, they made some great defensive plays.’’

Liriano, the reigning AL comeback player of the year, was backed by Jason Kubel’s fourth-inning homer. He threw just 66 pitches for strikes but kept Chicago off-balance in a game that took just 2 hours 9 minutes.

In his previous start, he lasted three innings in an 8-2 loss to Tampa Bay. The shutout lowered his ERA for the season to 6.61.

Edwin Jackson (2-4) lost his fourth straight start despite giving up six hits in eight innings. Then with Arizona, Jackson no-hit Tampa Bay last June 26 despite walking eight.

It was the seventh no-hitter for the Twins-Washington Senators franchise and the first since Eric Milton’s against the Angels Sept. 11, 1999.

It was the first no-hitter in the major leagues since Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay’s against Cincinnati in last year’s NL division series.

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