CHICAGO — Left-hander Francisco Liriano put a temporary halt Saturday to the revolving door surrounding his role and the back end of the White Sox rotation.
After moving in and out of the rotation during a four-day span, Liriano likely earned himself another start after pitching seven one-hit innings as the Sox held on for a 5-3 victory over the Twins. The triumph enabled them to maintain their one-game lead over the Tigers in the American League Central.
In his best performance since coming from the Twins in a July 28 trade, Liriano struck out nine, walked two and didn’t allow a hit until Trevor Plouffe hit a two-out, two-run homer in the seventh.
This effort came after Liriano failed to retire three batters in a relief role Tuesday following his removal from the rotation primarily because he had walked 15 batters in three starts.
“It is a relief,” Liriano said. “My last three starts I feel like I didn’t do my job, was kind of upset a little bit. But you have to keep fighting to the end, and I went out and did my job.”
Liriano was so impressive that manager Robin Ventura is leaning toward starting him Thursday in Kansas City.
“More than likely, he’s going to have that (start),” said Ventura, who doesn’t envision a six-man rotation.
Liriano said he merely tried to maintain his composure despite his struggles and uncertainty of his role.
“I don’t win anything if I get mad,” Liriano said.
His outing helped the Sox (78-66) feel better about their options with 18 games left.
“Usually when you have made as many moves as we have made, you have to scramble,” said Paul Konerko, who hit a two-run homer in the third. “It’s not a good thing. But it actually has worked to our advantage because we feel we can put anybody in a game at any time, and you feel comfortable with that guy because he has been in the fire.”
Liriano retired 13 consecutive batters at one juncture and didn’t allow a runner past first base until he hit Justin Morneau on the arm and Plouffe homered.
“Frankie was the Frankie that threw the no-hitter last year,” said Twins right fielder Darin Mastroianni, referring to Liriano’s no-hitter against the Sox on May 3. “He had command of all his pitches and was effectively wild with that fastball. He really had good command of his breaking ball. His stuff was moving so late that it made it hard for us to barrel him up.”
The Sox got a scare was in the ninth when rookie closer Addison Reed loaded the bases on two walks and a hit with no outs.
But left-hander Matt Thornton induced Morneau, representing the winning run, to ground into a double play that scored one run and retired Plouffe on a grounder to earn his third save.
“Everything was all over the place,” Reed said. “I was trying to throw strikes, (but) it wasn’t working out. I put Matty in an unfortunate situation. Luckily we got out of it.”