Francisco Liriano took a no-hitter into the eighth inning against his former team, Paul Konerko homered and drove in three runs, and the White Sox survived a scary ninth inning to defeat the Twins 5-3 for their second win in two games on a crucial road trip on Saturday afternoon.
Liriano gave up one hit, a two-run homer by Trevor Plouffe that cut the Sox lead in half in the seventh inning. Liriano finished the inning with his ninth strikeout. Liriano walked two and hit one batter.
Konerko’s RBI groundout in the first gave the Sox a 1-0 lead and his two-run homer against Twins starter Samuel Deduno in the third made it 3-0. The homer scored Adam Dunn, who returned from an oblique injury by reaching base three times with a single, walk and double.
Gordon Beckham singled in a run in the fourth, and Alexei Ramirez singled off the glove of shortstop Pedro Florimon in the eighth to score Orlando Hudson in the ninth.
Jesse Crain pitched a perfect eighth inning — 10 of his 11 pitches were strikes — but closer Addison Reed had to be rescued by Matt Thornton after he loaded the bases with Twins with a pair of walks and a single by pinch-hitter Denard Span.
Thornton got Justin Morneau to hit into a double play before retiring Plouffe on a one-hopper to second baseman Gordon Beckham to end the game.
After a brief, unsuccessful stint in the bullpen, Liriano returned to more comfortable surroundings at Target Field, his former home with the Twins.
“It’s kind of a weird situation,” Liriano said earlier this week. “But I’m excited they gave me another shot to do my job. I’m really excited about starting.”
Liriano has been an off-again, on-again piece to the Sox rotation. Gavin Floyd returned from the disabled list to bump him off his turn Wednesday to Friday. When Thursday’s game against the Tigers was rained out, Chris Sale went from Thursday to Friday, bumping Liriano. When the Sox braintrust, including manager Robin Ventura and pitching coach Don Cooper, reviewed their options on the team charter from Chicago to Minneapolis Thursday night, they leaned toward starting Liriano Saturday and moving Jose Quintana ahead to face the Tigers instead of Floyd.
That gives Quintana two extra days rest and Floyd one. And it gives Liriano another shot to bring his plus stuff under control. That’s been his bugaboo — command.
“I haven’t pitched the way I’d like to here,” said Liriano, who came from the Twins in a trade for infielder Eduardo Escobar and lefty Pedro Hernandez. “They brought me here to help them win some ballgames. My first couple games were OK but I haven’t gone deep enough in games. Walking too many guys, getting behind in counts too much.”
Liriano (6-11) had a no-decision in his last start on Sept. 7 against the Royals when he allowed five runs in five innings. In his first Sox start, which was against the Twins on July 31, he allowed two runs on four hits and struck out eight over six innigs.
In recent side sessions with Cooper, Liriano worked on getting his release point more out in front. He senses improvement.
“I’m pretty close,” he said.