In his first start for the Chicago White Sox, Francisco Liriano pitched well against his former team, the Minnesota Twins, while giving the White Sox pitching staff a much-needed boost following some recent pitching struggles and unfortunate events.
Liriano held the Twins to two runs on four hits through six innings Tuesday night. While he struggled with his control in the sixth inning, pushing his walk total on the game to four, Liriano was mostly dominant in his first start for the White Sox.
The 28-year-old left-hander struck out eight Twins, including Denard Span to start the sixth inning. A weak infield single by Darin Mastroianni followed, leading to some trouble for Liriano in the inning. Liriano was late in covering first base on that play, and Paul Konerko made an errant throw home later in the inning, leading to the Twins scoring their first runs of the game. Liriano did finish the inning after Brian Dozier flied out deep to left field.
For most of the game, Liriano was in control while regularly hitting 95 and 96 on the radar gun. He was locating his pitches well, and changing speeds, keeping the Twins off balance for most of the game.
The middle of the Twins lineup was 0-or-10 on the game. Twins sluggers, Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham each were struck out twice by Liriano.
White Sox general manager Kenny Williams took a gamble on Liriano by trading for him last Saturday, just three days before the season's trade deadline. While Liriano was once a burgeoning young superstar, winning 12 games in 16 starts with a 2.16 ERA his rookie season, Tommy John surgery ended his 2006 campaign. Liriano then missed the entire 2007 season, and hasn't lived up to the promise of his rookie season.
The week before the White Sox acquired Liriano, he was shelled by the team at U.S. Cellular Field, giving up seven runs in less than three innings. Liriano managed a 5.31 ERA with the Twins this season prior to joining the White Sox.
Liriano's solid start was a timely one considering some of the blows the White Sox pitching staff has suffered in the last few days.
This past weekend, the team announced that they were temporarily shutting down ace Chris Sale due to a dead arm. Sale is missing his scheduled start Wednesday, and possibly more starts following his recent performances when he struggled, while showing decreased velocity on his pitches.
It remains to be seen how long Sale will be resting, and Liriano's addition was likely in response to Sale's need for rest along with starter Jake Peavy's heavy workload this season.
Peavy has already logged more innings this season than he has since 2009 when he split time between San Diego and Chicago. A rest for Peavy may be forthcoming as well if he wants to be fresh for the division race, and possibly postseason baseball.
The White Sox also learned this week that John Danks will miss the rest of this season following his upcoming shoulder surgery. Danks has been on the disabled list since May 20 and had begun rehabbing this past week.
The 27-year-old lefty had signed a five-year, $65 million contract this offseason with the team. Danks struggled prior to landing on the DL, posting a 5.70 ERA in nine starts this season.
With all of the moving pieces to the White Sox starting rotation this season, the staff continues to get the job done. While rookie closer Addison Reed made things interesting yet again in the ninth inning Tuesday night, he earned his 17th save of the season.
Over the last seven days, the White Sox staff has an ERA of 3.12, while opponents' batting average against the White Sox is .247, matching their season average. White Sox pitchers had struggled following the All-Star break.
Despite the team's recent injury concerns to key pitchers, the staff seems to be going in the right direction as the White Sox's lead over the Tigers bulged to 2.5 games following Tuesday's win.
Francisco Liriano's solid performance holds promise for the team's chances the rest of the way. If Liriano stays healthy and effective, the team's plan to rest Sale and possibly Peavy should pay off with a division crown.