For a while this afternoon, I would have been more surprised if Francisco Liriano didn't finish the game with a no-hitter. He had pinpoint control of his fastball, the slider was as sharp as it's been all season, and even his changeup was effective. Liriano took his no-hitter into the eighth inning, when Adrian Beltre (for the second night in a row) broke the no-hitter up.
Even better, however, was that for the longest time it wasn't just a np-hitter. It was a perfect game.
Liriano put down the first 19 batters he faced. That included eight strikeouts and eight groundouts. But then Elvis Andrus chopped down on a 1-1 changeup, bouncing it up the third base line. Luke Hughes charged forward, reached down with his glove to field the ball...and whiffed.
Was it an error? Yes, it was. While a guy like Andrus has amazing speed, Hughes got to the ball quickly and I don't think you can assume that Andrus would have beat the throw. That's an error. It would have been a tough play, certainly, but it was an error.
Hughes looked distraught after the play, and comments in our game thread alluded to the fact that Hughes looked like he wanted to cry. Hell, I don't blame the guy. Nobody wants to be the one to break up a no-hitter, much less the perfect game that this contest had been up until this point.
Important to keep in mind regarding Luke Hughes and his performance today:
- It was Hughes who put the Twins up 1-0 in the bottom of the first, by lacing a two-out single into left field to score Ben Revere.
- In the bottom of the fourth Hughes made a diving stop to his right on a play that kept Ian Kinsler from smashing a double down the left field line.
More on the game after the jump.
Following Liriano's brilliance through seven innings, the Twins decided it was time for their bats to wake up. Although the Rangers may have done most of this to themselves. Following a Danny Valencia single, Jason Repko grounded out, Rene Rivera reached on a fielding error (which scored Valencia), Matt Tolbert popped out, and Revere struck out...but reached first base as the pitch got away. That's already four outs, but the scoreboard read just two.
The next two batters made Matt Harrison pay. Harrison had been brilliant in his own right this afternoon, but his defense let him down, and eventually Minnesota made them pay. Alexi Casilla followed all of this up with a single, scoring Rivera. And then came Michael Cuddyer.
Who proceeded to absolutely crush a three-run blast into the left field seats. That three-run homer completed a five-run inning for the Twins, giving them a six-run lead and essentially putting an end to the game.
The only down side to the big inning was the 30-minute wait between pitches for Liriano. Harrison was pulled after taking a Valencia line drive off his arm, meaning he had to wait for the reliever to warm up and enter the game, and then wait again as the Twins chased that reliever, too.
As a result, Liriano was cold as he came out for the eighth inning. Beltre finally broke up the no-hitter, then Liriano struck out Nelson Cruz for the third time. Yorvit Torrealba singled to score Beltre, but that was as far as the Rangers would get.
With that, Liriano's night was over. He'd thrown 97 pitches, and he'd struggled a bit more with command in that eighth inning following the long break. It was a good move to go to the bullpen, and Alex Burnett sent the Rangers down 1-2-3.
- The Twins are now just nine games out of first...what?
- Luke Hughes needs to stick around on this roster. Three more hits for him again today, meaning he's hit .387 over his last ten games.
- If Liriano had completed his no-hitter, he would have been the sixth pitcher in MLB history to throw two no-hitters in a season.
Liriano, Hughes, Revere, Casilla, Cuddyer
Anyone who thinks Target Field is anything less than a beautiful, impressive ballpark...because that's exactly what Target Field is: amazing