When Francisco Liriano takes the mound Tuesday night in Minnesota, he'll be coming out of the visiting clubhouse for the first time in his career.
Acquired by the Chicago White Sox over the weekend, Liriano squares off against his former Twins teammates as these AL Central rivals continue a three-game set.In an attempt to bolster its starting rotation, division-leading Chicago (55-47) sent infielder Eduardo Escobar and pitching prospect Pedro Hernandez to Minnesota in exchange for Liriano (3-10, 5.31 ERA) on Saturday."Everything feels weird," Liriano told MLB's official website. "I feel weird. It's kind of surprising. Mostly I just feel real weird."I knew something like that was going to happen but not to the White Sox. It is what it is. They are a good team and in first place and they believe in me. I'm excited to help them win some ballgames."Though Liriano's overall numbers leave much to be desired, the White Sox are hoping to see him pick up the pace down the stretch. The hard-throwing left-hander enters Tuesday in the midst of a three-start losing streak and hasn't pitched since surrendering a season-worst seven runs in 2 2/3 innings of the Twins' 7-4 loss at U.S. Cellular Field on July 23."Last time out for him wasn't so great, but we saw some things that we believe can immediately show him better results," Chicago general manager Ken Williams said of Liriano, who threw a no-hitter May 3, 2011, against the White Sox."We've had the displeasure of facing him when he's been on his game. He has some of the best stuff in the league and has had that for quite some time. All we are asking for him to do is throw strikes, and throw his best pitches over the plate."Minnesota, meanwhile, was sad to see Liriano go. He went 50-52 with a 4.33 ERA over 156 games -- 130 starts -- since debuting for the Twins in 2005."It's not fun," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I have lot of respect for him and you develop relationships with these guys and they're like your kids. He was a hard worker and one of the most polite guys you'll ever meet in your life. He spent a lot of time in this organization and was always accountable. So it wasn't fun. It was more strange to tell you truth."On the verge of matching its longest winning streak of the season, Minnesota (44-58) snapped a five-game skid in this series with its fourth consecutive overall victory Monday, taking the series opener 7-6. Ryan Doumit and Danny Valencia each had two RBIs before Jamey Carroll played the role of hero with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth."These guys are in first place in our division and we took a pretty good beating against them," Gardenhire said. "It was fun tonight. Guys were into it. We fought hard."Chicago catcher A.J. Pierzynski hit a three-run homer in his return to the lineup following a five-game absence and Alejandro De Aza matched a career best with four hits after missing the previous two contests (wrist)."We've been playing well and tonight hopefully is just a blip on the radar," Pierzynski said.Pierzynski is 16 for 45 (.356) lifetime against probable Twins starter Nick Blackburn (4-6, 7.99), who yielded season highs of eight runs and 10 hits over 4 1/3 innings Wednesday in an 8-2 road loss on the South Side.Blackburn, who went 7-1 with a 3.13 ERA over nine matchups in this series May 21, 2009-July 8, 2011, has since lost three straight starts to Chicago while compiling an 11.05 ERA.
This year, it seems like everyone is able to hit off Minnesota's Nick Blackburn. The White Sox have been particularly efficient, scoring 14 runs in just 9 1/3 innings off the righty. Pay special attention to Alex Rios, who is 3-for-5 with two home runs off Blackburn this year.