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Francisco Liriano collects evidence

Updated: May 4, 2011, 12:09 PM ET
By Buster Olney

Francisco Liriano went into his start Tuesday with a 9.13 ERA, but if there were a ranking for body language, he somehow would rank lower. His frustration with his inability to throw strikes sometimes covers his face, curls his posture and slows his pace on the mound.

Liriano has been dominant in the past and he knows how much talent he has, and over the last few years, it's as if he has measured himself, within starts and within innings, by what he thinks he should be doing. And so when he hasn't executed, when he loses his arm slot and his command, Liriano's exasperation seeps out.

When Johan Santana pitched for the Twins, he was the model of mound stoicism and confidence, battling and attacking and often dominating, and when he struggled, you couldn't tell from his expression. Liriano has been very different; when you watch him pitch, you sometimes wonder what he thinks about himself.

So maybe the no-hitter he threw Tuesday will be a great thing for him, a piece of evidence to remind him just how good he can be. There will be a lot of discussion about the six walks he surrendered, and for the sake of Liriano and the Twins, hopefully the pitcher won't focus on any of that. Hopefully, Liriano will build on this, and improve his earned run average and body language.

From Courtenay Harris of ESPN Stats & Information, some notes from Liriano's no-hitter. How he won:

• Liriano adjusted to the White Sox as the game went on. The White Sox swung at just 34.1 percent of Liriano's pitches, the lowest percentage against the Twins left-hander over the last three seasons. In innings 1-3, Liriano threw just 38.7 percent of his pitches in the strike zone. That number increased to 43.6 in innings 4-6 and 48.6 in innings 7-9.

• The White Sox did not hit the ball out of the infield in the last four innings, as Liriano threw 59.6 percent of his pitches down in that span, compared to 46.5 in the first five innings.

• Twenty-one of Liriano's 26 changeups were low. He got five outs with his changeup in the last four innings (including a double play), and none left the infield.

• Liriano had six innings of 12 pitches or less. It's even more impressive considering that he threw first-pitch balls to 19 of the 30 hitters he faced.

It was Liriano's first complete game in his 95th start, joining these players over the last six years, with start number in parentheses: Dallas Braden (53rd); Jonathan Sanchez (51st); Jon Lester (37th); Clay Buchholz (second); Anibal Sanchez (13th).

In his no-hitter Tuesday, Liriano beat Edwin Jackson, who threw a no-hitter last season. The two no-hitters were very similar. Both won 1-0 and walked more hitters than they struck out. In fact, the strike percentage was also similar, 53.7 percent to 53.0 percent, the called strike totals were the same (24), and Jackson went to 13 three-ball counts, Liriano 11.

• In the first two years of this decade, there have been seven no-hitters. In the entire decade of the 2000s, there were 15. Here are the AL pitchers to throw a no-hitter in a 1-0 win in the divisional era other than Liriano: Mike Witt in 1984, Dennis Eckersley in 1977 and Nolan Ryan in 1975. Liriano walked six and struck out two, the most walks ever in a no-hitter that featured two or fewer strikeouts. It's only the 24th no-hitter since 1900 with two or fewer strikeouts. Here's the list of countries-of-origin other than the U.S. with no-hitters: Dominican Republic, with four (Juan Marichal, Ramon Martinez, Jose Jimenez, Ubaldo Jimenez), Venezuela with three (Wilson Alvarez, Anibal Sanchez, Carlos Zambrano), Ireland with two (Tony Mullane, One Arm Daily), Japan with two (Hideo Nomo has both), Puerto Rico with two (Juan Nieves, Jonathan Sanchez).

For Liriano, this was a tremendous turnaround, writes Joe Christensen. The Twins' defense helped him. The win gave Minnesota a big lift.

Maybe this was rock bottom for the White Sox -- who need a shakeup, writes Phil Rogers, who notes that the White Sox are on pace to go 57-105. White Sox fans should brace themselves for a wreck. From Joe's column, about the White Sox:

    Rest in peace, you $125 million pile of dung.

Alex Rios is mired in a deep slump. The timing of the White Sox-Twins meeting makes this series very interesting, because both teams have started so poorly and are standing on the edge of the early-season cliff.

Notables


• It was a really good night for the brothers Upton -- after B.J. hit a walk-off, Justin clubbed a decisive homer for the Diamondbacks.

• The Dodgers are right at the tipping point financially, and if they don't make payroll later this month, then they could be seized by Major League Baseball.

• Throughout Cal Ripken's consecutive games streak, he was often asked by reporters about approaching the manager and asking for a day off, and Cal's response was always the same: He thought his job was to prepare himself to play every day in the event that the manager wrote his name into the lineup.

But as Ripken approached Lou Gehrig's record -- and after he broke it -- this response was theoretically admirable but disingenuous, because the practical reality had shifted and the decision to bench Cal was in his hands. Ripken's stature in the sport had grown to the point that no manager had the power to take him out of the lineup without his consent, and so it came to pass that Ripken ended the streak by taking himself out of the lineup on Sept. 20, 1998.

Derek Jeter has achieved the same kind of status that Ripken had, as an icon within the sport. There is a generation of major leaguers running around now who wear No. 2 because of Jeter, because of the championships he won and because of his Hall of Fame caliber accomplishments, because -- like Ripken -- there is a deep respect for how he has played the game.

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