Defense comes up big to back up Liriano's gem

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 4, 2011 - 8:59 AM

Third baseman Danny Valencia took a hit away in the seventh inning; a gift out helped in the eighth, too.

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Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Francisco Liriano, right, celebrates with catcher Drew Butera, left and third baseman Danny Valencia, his no hitter and 1-0 win over the Chicago White Sox after a baseball game Tuesday, May 3, 2011 in Chicago.

Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast, Associated Press - Ap

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CHICAGO - Most no-hitters include at least one memorable defensive play.

Francisco Liriano's had several.

The Twins were clinging to a 1-0 lead over the White Sox on Tuesday night with two outs in the seventh inning.

Normally, teams guard the lines in that situation, trying to prevent a double. But the Twins had third baseman Danny Valencia stationed a few feet off the line.

Manager Ron Gardenhire said the reason is that Valencia is much better going to his backhand side than his forehand side.

Sure enough, Carlos Quentin hit a chopper down the line. The ball took a bad hop, but Valencia -- whose defense has been a concern for the Twins this season -- reached up about letter-high to grab it. He quickly turned and fired across the infield for the out.

The hardest part of that play is the throw, Valencia said, "because you're off-balance catching it, and to throw from that far across the field is pretty tough."

The next big moment came after Liriano walked Ramon Castro with one out in the eighth inning. At that point, Liriano had thrown 100 pitches, and he still needed five more outs.

But Gordon Beckham grounded the next pitch to Valencia, who started a controversial 5-4-3 inning-ending double play. The relay throw from second baseman Alexi Casilla pulled Justin Morneau off first base, but umpire Paul Emmel ruled that Morneau tagged Beckham.

Replays clearly showed Morneau missed.

"I haven't looked at the replay, but I didn't feel him tagging me on the shoulder," Beckham said. "That's the only reason I was upset. I didn't argue long. What's the point?"

Morneau acted like he got the out, but when asked later if he tagged Beckham, he just shrugged.

"I don't know if [Emmel] is going to be too happy with me once he looks at it," Morneau said. "It's part of the game. You try to sell it. You try to get outs for your pitchers whenever you can."

Morneau made one final great play to preserve the no-hitter. Brent Morel led off the ninth inning with a slow grounder to shortstop Matt Tolbert. Tolbert's off-balance throw to first was in the dirt, but Morneau scooped out the throw; the play might have been called an infield hit if he hadn't.

The Twins were determined to help make this a special night for Liriano.

"Big for all of us, for our whole team," said center fielder Denard Span, who had his own nice running catch to snare Quentin's drive, ending a White Sox threat in the fourth inning. "I think he is our ace. He has great stuff, and I think it's just a good sign for us to come, if he can get on track."

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