This was not a game the White Sox displayed any great desire to have Francisco Liriano start. He had been pulled from the rotation earlier in the week, bumped in out and out from rotation schedule twice, and had the bullpen working in the 7th even though he had a no-hitter going.
He had a no-hitter going, in the 7th.
Don Cooper once spoke critically of Liriano's approach and his steadfast avoidance of strikes over the heart of the plate by quipping that Liriano never wants anyone to get a hit. The laugh line there is obvious, because no one can ever just be unhittable. Except that's what Liriano was for 6.2 innings.
Liriano's control still was not, and probably will never be, great. He walked two, hit a batter, and peppered every at-bat with fastballs whipped a foot out of the zone as he flew open too early. But his slider was untouchable, and a Twins lineup removed of Denard Span and Joe Mauer wasn't much contest for his stuff.
Meanwhile, the Sox weathered the far more substantial wildness of Twins starter Samuel Deduno. The unpredictable righty--who had been on an upward trend--threw six more balls than strikes over 86 pitches. Despite some holdover White Sox impatience from last night, he walked five, three of which scored.
- Kevin Youkilis scored in the 1st after an Adam Dunn single pushed him to 3rd with a single, and Paul Konerko drove him home with a groundout.
- Konerko drove Dunn in much more forcefully in 3rd, turning on a inside fastball and golfing it out to left
- Dayan Viciedo walked (again!), moved up on a wild pitch (there were many), and scored on a two-out Gordon Beckham single up the middle
- In the 9th, against Tyler Robinson, Orlando Hudson drew yet another walk, and scored when a hot grounder bounced off Pedro Florimon's extended grasp
The Sox had trouble adjusting to actual strikes being thrown from Brian Duensing in 3.1 innings of relief, so when Trevor Plouffe broke up the no-no with a two-run shot in the 7th, it suddenly became a tightly-contested affair requiring primary relievers.
Jesse Crain continued his recent run of sharp outings in the 8th, but the 9th brought on Addison Reed.
Reed had nothing but a fastball, and not a particularly well-located one. He walked two, allowed a single, and left a nice bases-loaded, no out jam for Matt Thornton. Given the platoon advantage against Justin Morneau, Thornton was up to the task. He induced a double play to 2nd from the former AL MVP, and got Trevor Plouffe do the same to end the game safely.
Francisco Liriano - 7 IP, H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, HR - Given the context, and the degree of necessity, a pretty huge effort that's sure to remembered if this season ends up memorable.
Adam Dunn - 2 for 3, 2B, BB - Really, really sharp-looking in his first game back.
Paul Konerko - 1 for 3, HR, 3 RBI, BB - Pulling a big fastball for power is a very encouraging sign.
Alexei Ramirez - 1 for 3, RBI, BB - Did various goofy things at the plate, but wound up with a decent game. Confounding.
Matt Thornton - IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K - Hey, who's this guy?!
Alejandro De Aza - 0 for 5, 4 K - Ok, fine, Robin. Go ahead and play Wise more.
In the 2nd inning, Samuel Deduno walked both Dayan Viciedo and Alexei Ramirez in the same inning, and threw two balls over Gordon Beckham's head...and was not scored upon.
After walking Adam Dunn with two outs, Deduno's wildness was threatening to go unpunished yet again. That's when Paul Konerko--owner of one homer and three extra-base hits for the month--turned and burned a 93-mph fastball out to left to give the Sox a 3-0 lead.
Things Would Be Different If...
...not for Matt Thornton. He might have worked his way into a few more late-game situations after rescuing Addison Reed from himself in the 9th. It's worth acknowledging that Robin did a good job getting the bullpen warm in the early part of Reed's troubles.
Another functional win in Minnesota to keep the pressure on Detroit, and the Sox did more than navigate a start by the shaky Liriano--he dominated and probably earned himself another start. Francisco didn't look reformed so much as he appeared to be having a good day, but results are results.
Addison Reed was about as messy as Thornton was encouraging, and the bats made due with another pitcher not suited to their skill set. Stylistic points are pretty much worthless at this point, but there were a few here.
Team Record: 78-66, 1.5 games up at time of posting