It was Francisco Liriano at the height of his powers.
His wicked pitches were under control. The opponent looked out of his league.
The Twins have seen it before, of course. Liriano was in their uniform two months ago before he was traded to Chicago. But, on Saturday, the Twins got the side of Liriano they tried hard to get him to show more of.
"He was on point," Twins outfielder Ben Revere said.
Liriano led the White Sox to a 5-3 victory at Target Field as he no-hit the Twins for 6 2/3 innings before Trevor Plouffe broke through with a two-run home run to left. While reminding an announced crowd of 36,308 of what he occasionally did with the Twins, Liriano made a point to a White Sox club that demoted him to the bullpen last week before returning him to the rotation a day later.
"He threw great," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "He was getting ahead. I think that's the one thing. He just looked like he had a lot of confidence out there, just throwing strikes. His stuff moves all over the place. When he has that kind of confidence and pounds the strike zone, he's tough."
Liriano (6-11) could throw all his pitches for strikes, making it difficult for the Twins to get anything going. Josh Willingham walked and was stranded in the first. Drew Butera walked and was erased on a double play in the sixth. Justin Morneau was hit by a pitch in the seventh, right before Plouffe's home run.
Other than that, Frankie Franchise was back. In seven innings, he walked two and struck out nine. He easily won the matchup of talented-yet-occasionally scatter-armed pitchers, as Twins righthander Samuel Deduno (6-4) gave up four runs over four innings on three hits and five walks, while striking out six.
"I think the plan is just to look for a spot in the plate and take him up the middle," Butera said of Liriano. "It's tough to sit on one pitch because at that time he can throw any of them for strikes. You eliminate one side of the plate, look for a way in and go from there."
Liriano no-hit the White Sox on May 3, 2011, in Chicago, so he was seven outs away from throwing no-hitters against both clubs he's played for.
"To be honest I wasn't thinking about a no-hitter," Liriano said. "I was trying to go deep in the game and throw less pitches each inning. ... I was just trying to go deep in the game and give us a chance to win the ballgame."
Before Plouffe's homer, the White Sox took a 4-0 lead on an RBI groundout by Paul Konerko in the first, a two-run home run by Konerko in the third and an RBI single by Gordon Beckham in the fourth. Plouffe's blast, his 22nd of the year, made it 4-2 in the seventh. Chicago added a run in the ninth before the Twins threatened.
Revere walked, Denard Span had a pinch-hit single and Willingham walked to load the bases. But Morneau bounced into a double play and Plouffe grounded out to end the game. The Twins made it close, but most of the talk after the game was about Liriano.
"We've all seen him dominate teams, just dominate them," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We've also seen where he has a hard time finding the strike zone. Anything Frankie does, we've seen it, one way or another."