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Waiting game may have affected Liriano

June 12, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS — On average, each half-inning on Sunday at Target Field lasted just under eight minutes. The bottom of the seventh took 29 minutes, 48 seconds.

Whether it played a part in breaking up Francisco Liriano’s no-hitter is up for debate, but it certainly didn’t seem to help.

“It didn’t bother me physically, but I started thinking too much about that no-hitter,” Liriano said after the Twins’ 6-1 win over the Rangers. “I tried to overthrow that inning and was trying to be too perfect. And I then [gave up] a hit when I got behind in the count.”

After an error by third baseman Luke Hughes broke up Liriano’s perfect game in the top of the seventh, the Twins lefty headed to the dugout needing six outs to complete his second no-hitter in 40 days.

Then the Twins’ offense came alive.

Leading off the seventh, Danny Valencia lined a single off the arm of Rangers starter Matt Harrison, knocking him out of the game. After the pitching change delayed the inning, reliever Mark Lowe was not quite as effective or efficient as Harrison had been.

As a result, Liriano sat in the dugout for nearly 30 minutes between pitches.

“It’s tough when you have one big long inning,” Valencia said. “It keeps him in, and it keeps him cooled off for a while. So I’m sure it’s frustrating, but no pitcher is obviously going to get mad about getting run support. At the same time, with what’s on the line for him from a personal standpoint, it’s probably something that’s not ideal in that situation.”

Lowe got Jason Repko to ground out, but an error on shortstop Elvis Andrus put Rene Rivera on first and brought Valencia home from second. Two batters later, Ben Revere struck out, but reached first on a wild pitch.

Alexi Casilla followed with a single to drive in Rivera, and Michael Cuddyer drove a three-run blast into the seats in right, putting the Twins up, 6-1, over the Rangers.

As the rally kept building, did the thought of getting Liriano back on the mound cross Cuddyer’s mind?

“[Heck] no. No, you score as many runs as you can, especially against a team like that,” Cuddyer said. “First and foremost you want to win. Obviously everyone wanted to see a no-hitter, everybody wanted to have that happen, but bottom line is, you want to win the game.”

After Cuddyer’s home run, the Twins kept hitting, though they did not plate anymore runs. Delmon Young and Hughes followed with singles before Valencia finally flied out to center field to get Liriano back on the mound.

When he got back out there, Liriano got to 3-0 on Adrian Beltre before giving up a single. A wild pitch and another single two batters later plated the Rangers’ only run.

“It’s almost like a rain delay there when you’re at 70-something pitches and you have to sit out for 30 minutes,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “We kept telling him he had to get up and move around. And not only did he have 70 pitches, he had a no-hitter, too.

“So we told him to move around, because it was a long inning. So we were worried when he went out there. His first few warmup pitches weren’t pretty. And his first few pitches were rushed out there.”

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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