Jul 31, 2012 at 9:32 pm
MINNEAPOLIS (KNSI) – While Francisco Liriano's return as an opponent at Target Field had people talking, another former Minnesota Twin changed the game late Tuesday night and helped the Chicago White Sox to a 4-3 win.
With one home run already under his belt in the series, former Minnesota catcher AJ Pierzynski broke a 2-2 tie in the top of the ninth with a two run shot to right field. The blast is Pierzynski's 18th home run of the season and helped the first place White Sox tie the series at one game apiece. The Twins scored a single run in the ninth but could not push the tying run across.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, not since Marino "Chick" Pieretti faced the Washington Senators on June 19, 1948 had a Chicago White Sox pitcher faced his former team in their first start following a trade. That is until Francisco Liriano stepped into the slightly historic spotlight Tuesday night. Pieretti allowed five runs in a White Sox win that day in '48. Liriano pitched better, but fared worse, earning just a no decision, when he returned to face his former Minnesota mates.
Liriano had his former line-up off completely off balance it seemed through five innings allowing two hits, both to lead-off man, and another nearly traded Twin, Denard Span. A strike out to begin the sixth gave Liriano seven in his Chicago debut, however the four of the next five batters reached, and when the dust settled the Twins had a 2-1 advantage. Liriano left the game after the inning with two earned runs allowed, four hits, four walks and eight strike outs in six innings.
As Liriano's return fueled the chatter prior to the game, Twins starter Nick Blackburn at the very least had the White Sox talking after the contest. The right-hander quietly pieced together one of his best outings of the season despite the Twins loss. Through his eight innings, Blackburn allowed just two runs on five hits and struck out two, earning a no decision.
Blackburn allowed a run on back to back hits and a sac fly in the second but did not allow another hit through the first six innings. In the seventh, Blackburn hit a batter to spark a two out run scoring rally that tied the score at two and sent the Oklahoma native to the dugout with a no decision.
Blackburn, who struggled enough to see time at AAA Rochester earlier in the month, held an opponent to two or fewer runs for only the third time in 15 appearances this season.
Darin Mastroianni's legs deserve the greatest share of the credit for sparking the Twins rally off Liriano. After an infield single in the sixth, the part time outfielder stole second and third on consecutive pitches, then came home on a ground ball off the bat of Justin Morneau. A Danny Valencia infield single brought Joe Mauer home. Valencia now has four RBI in four games since his call up from AAA.
The loss moves the Twins (44-59) to back to 12.5 games behind first place Chicago (56-47). The series concludes with a day game Wednesday at 12:10. Scott Diamond (9-4, 2.88) will start for the Twins against the White Sox Jake Peavy (8-7, 3.15). Read a full recap of the game on knsiradio.com and follow us on Twitter @KNSI_Sports for in game updates.