Liriano, bullpen combine to two-hit Twins

Liriano, bullpen combine to two-hit Twins

Liriano, bullpen combine to two-hit Twins
MINNEAPOLIS -- Francisco Liriano nearly completed the ultimate plot twist on Saturday.

He held the Twins without a hit for 6 2/3 innings, threatening to no-hit his former team a year after he no-hit his current team.

Trevor Plouffe rescued Minnesota from falling victim to that dubious fate, connecting for a two-out home run off Liriano in the seventh inning. Still, Liriano settled for seven dominant innings, guiding the White Sox to a 5-3 victory at Target Field.

Chicago, which maintained a one-game lead in the American League Central following Detroit's 5-3 victory in Cleveland, has now won 21 of its last 27 games and a franchise-record nine straight series against Minnesota.

Liriano held his former teammates to just two runs on Plouffe's 22nd homer. The left-hander walked two batters and hit another, but struck out nine of the 24 batters he faced.

Improved command was Liriano's key.

"I had better location with my pitches today," Liriano said. "I was getting ahead in the count early and they were swinging early, too. Pitching's all about location. When you have pretty good location, you're going to get better results."

He threw a no-hitter as a member of the Twins against the White Sox in Chicago on May 3, 2011. But Liriano said the thought of throwing another didn't creep into his mind, even as he carried a no-hitter into the seventh.

"To be honest, I wasn't thinking about a no-hitter," Liriano said. "I was just trying to go deep in the game and give us a chance to win the ballgame."

Chicago's offense also did little, but five runs on five hits were enough to back up Liriano's stellar showing. Minnesota shortstop Pedro Florimon bobbled Paul Konerko's apparent double-play grounder in the first, settling for one out and letting Kevin Youkilis score the game's first run. Youkilis reached on a walk earlier in the inning.

The White Sox added two more on Konerko's 23rd home run in the third inning. Konerko's 48th career home run against the Twins also drove in Adam Dunn, who walked in his second plate appearance in his first game after missing seven in a row. Dunn, who has been nursing a strained right oblique, went 2-for-3, singling in the first and doubling in the eighth.

Manager Robin Ventura used Jose Lopez to replace Dunn as a pinch-runner after his double, but Dunn felt fine in his first game since Sept. 5.

"I woke up this morning like it was Opening Day," Dunn said. "I was really excited to get here because I knew I was playing. To be honest with you, I had no idea what to expect. I went in with kind of a game plan and I didn't have any expectations or anything like that. Just wanted to get out there and play."

Gordon Beckham drove in Dayan Viciedo with a two-out single in the fourth and Orlando Hudson, who walked, scored Chicago's final run in the ninth when Alexei Ramirez drove him in with a single.

Chicago's ability to score without relying on the home run was encouraging. Only three of Chicago's 11 runs in the first two games of the series came via the long ball.

"I'm also pleased with being able to scratch across a couple runs, even late," Ventura said. "That run [scored by Hudson] becomes important. That's how you continue winning games."

Twins center fielder Ben Revere robbed the White Sox of at least one additional run in the eighth. Revere completed an impressive over-the-shoulder catch of A.J. Pierzynski's drive to the warning track, taking away what would have likely been an extra-base hit and stranding White Sox runners on the corners.

Jesse Crain struck out two in a scoreless eighth before closer Addison Reed made things interesting when he was handed a 5-2 lead in the bottom of the ninth. Revere earned a leadoff walk and Denard Span -- pinch-hitting for former White Sox infielder Eduardo Escobar -- lined a single to center. Josh Willingham worked a 3-2 count against Reed, then walked to load the bases for Justin Morneau.

Ventura removed Reed before he could record an out, pulling him in favor of Matt Thornton to get a lefty-versus-lefty matchup. It was apparently the right move, as Thornton induced a 6-4-3 double-play ball from Morneau that scored Revere. Then Plouffe grounded out against Thornton to end the game.

Liriano had been sent to the bullpen earlier in the week as his start was skipped in favor of Gavin Floyd. He had been 0-1 with a 6.43 ERA over his last three starts, which saw him walk 15 batters in 14 innings.

Suffice to say that Saturday's performance was a nice way to rebound.

"When he's throwing his slider and his changeup over and his fastball like that it's tough," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of his former pitcher. "We've all seen it. We've seen him dominate teams, just dominate them. So we've seen it on our side.

"But we've also seen him have trouble finding the strike zone, so anything Frankie does, we've seen it one way or another."

Jordan Garretson is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.