Francisco Liriano lives to start another day.
Today, Liriano, who maybe wasn't supposed to start this game due to some abysmal control problems in his previous four outings, nearly did it again with the teams reversed.
Liriano took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning before it escaped him, Freddy Garcia-style, on a two-run homer by Trevor Plouffe. Except, unlike Garcia, Liriano had run support. He lost the no-hitter and the shutout, but he still held a 4-2 lead afterward. He pitched beautifully, minimizing any control problems to isolated plate appearances instead of whole innings or evenings.
His line says it all: 7 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 1 HBP. No defensive miracles were needed. Besides the Plouffe shot, the Twins didn't hit another ball well. Maybe you could count Chris Parmalee's deep flyout, but it was was well short of Target Fielder's faraway center field fence.
And he looked much more composed than his counterpart on the mound, Samuel Deduno.
Deduno was all over the place, walking five batters and throwing two wild pitches over four innings. He nearly beaned Gordon Beckham twice, and would have drilled Alexei Ramirez had Ramirez not walked away from the plate on a 3-0 pitch, as is his custom. He threw only 40 of 86 pitches for strikes, and he wore his problems on his face. If there were ever a time to bring back the "Sad Sam" nickname, this would be it.
The Sox could have done more, but at least they did find a way to deliver that big hit, with Paul Konerko squaring up a fastball and driving it into the White Sox bullpen for his 23rd home run of the year, giving the Sox a 3-0 lead.
And they did take advantage of what Deduno gave them. Konerko's homer drove in Kevin Youkilis, who had walked. Youkilis also scored the first run of the game in the first inning on a one-out walk. And in the fourth, Dayan Viciedo walked, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on Beckham's big two-out single.
Ventura, having struck oil with Liriano, kept his hot hand going in the ninth with another odd move. He pinch-hit Orlando Hudson for Jordan Danks, who replaced Viciedo as a defensive replacement the inning before. Hudson drew a walk, stole second, and scored on an Alexei Ramirez single (should've been an error on Pedro Florimon).
That insurance run turned out to be huge, because Ventura's luck almost ran out. Jesse Crain worked a dominant eighth inning, but Ventura went to Addison Reed to start the ninth. Typical closer use in a typical save situation almost yielded a disastrous outcome. Reed faced three batters -- walk, single, walk -- before Ventura brought out the hook.
Ventura picked Matt Thornton to face Justin Morneau. The world braced for Thornton Luck, especially when it looked like he struck out Morneau on three pitches (Adrian Johnson flinched, but didn't call strike three on a pitch just outside). But the Sox benefited from the call, as Thornton got Morneau to bounce into a 4-6-3 double play to take the go-ahead run out of play.
That left the game to Plouffe, but the guy who spoiled Liriano's chance at a second no-hitter had no more heroics in store. He, too, bounced out to second, and Thornton continues to rebuild his reputation.
- Adam Dunn returned to the lineup and showed the Sox what they had been missing. He singled, doubled and walked in four plate appearances, and didn't strike out once.
- Alejandro De Aza, on the other hand, was a strike away from becoming the first White Sox since June 5, 1998, to strike out five times in a game. He mustered a weak popout to short, and so Ray Durham remains the most recent member of the 5K Club.
- A.J. Pierzynski nearly put the game out of reach in the eighth with a deep drive just left of center that would have driven in two ... had Ben Revere not made an amazing over-the-shoulder grab to kill his dreams.