MINNEAPOLIS – Francisco Liriano is a difficult pitcher to figure out.
When the White Sox's pitcher is throwing strikes, his changeup-slider combination makes him a lefty who can dominate lineups. But when he can't find the plate, it is often only a matter of time until the opposition scores runs in bunches.
That inconsistency was part of the reason Liriano was traded from Minnesota to the Sox at the end of July. But in Saturday's 5-3 victory over the Twins, Liriano (6-11) was tremendous against his former team. Instead of being wild and getting frustrated, Liriano took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and helped the Sox stay on top of the AL Central by a game over Detroit.
Considering Liriano had recently been demoted to the bullpen – making him a rare pitcher who made the rotation-to-reliever move for two teams in the same season – this performance came as a huge surprise.
"He just looked like he had a lot of confidence out there, just throwing strikes," Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "His stuff moves all over the place. When he has that confidence and pounds the strike zone, he's tough."
Liriano allowed only a two-out homer in the seventh to Trevor Plouffe. He walked two, hit a batter and struck out nine in seven innings.
"He seemed like he was more under control, he wasn't as jumpy, he wasn't as quick," Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. "It looked like he slowed it down a little bit. He pitched really well. I was happy for him to come back here and do that. He had a great slider and a great changeup."
Liriano, who threw a no-hitter against the Sox last season, was simply relieved to help his team win and stay ahead of Detroit in the AL Central race. The Tigers also won Saturday, 5-3 in Cleveland.