Francisco Liriano has brought no-hit stuff to the mound plenty of times in his 95 major league starts, but this was a major upset:
1. Liriano entered tonight 1-4 with a 9.13 ERA and a 1.90 WHIP this season. He was very much in danger of losing his rotation spot to Kevin Slowey with another bad outing.
2. Liriano had never pitched a complete game as a major leaguer. He had gotten just one out in the seventh inning this year.
3. He was at 86 pitches after six innings tonight. He hadn’t thrown more than 97 pitches in a game this season, and had he thrown 20-25 pitches in the seventh tonight, he might not have been brought back out for the eighth even if he still had the no-hitter intact.
Liriano, though, shook it all off and became the first Twin to throw a no-hitter since Eric Milton in a 1-0 win over the White Sox tonight. He outpitched Edwin Jackson, who famously threw a 149-pitch no-hitter for the Diamondbacks last year.
Liriano ended this one at 123 pitches. He was able to finish it off because he threw just seven pitches in the seventh and eight in the eighth. Double plays after three of his six walks helped a bunch, as did some fine plays from Denard Span and Danny Valencia.
The Twins will hope that it’s a turning point for Liriano or maybe even for the team as a whole. For what it’s worth, Liriano never looked as dominant tonight as he did at certain points during his strong 2010 season. A team hitting better than the White Sox are very possibly would have gotten to him tonight. Still, it was obviously a big step in the right direction for Liriano, and it means that if Slowey is going to replace anyone in Minnesota’s rotation, it will be Nick Blackburn.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.