Twins-White Sox Preview
The last time Francisco Liriano started at U.S. Cellular Field, he tossed a no-hitter in the midst of an otherwise miserable season.
Now pitching well while trade rumors swirl, Liriano looks to help the Minnesota Twins send the slumping Chicago White Sox to their season-worst sixth consecutive loss in the opener of a three-game set Monday night.
The highlight of Liriano's disappointing 2011 season came May 3 in Chicago, where he no-hit the White Sox in a 1-0 victory. Not much else went right for him in that 9-10 campaign, nor did 2012 begin as he had hoped.
Liriano (3-9, 4.81 ERA) was 0-5 with a 9.45 ERA before being demoted to the bullpen in May. He's gone 3-4 with a solid 2.84 ERA in 10 starts since returning to the rotation.
The left-hander has lost each of his last two starts despite striking out 25, allowing three earned runs in eight innings July 13 against Oakland before giving up two runs in six innings Wednesday versus Baltimore.
With the Twins (40-55) tied for the worst record in the AL and his contract expiring at season's end, Liriano's recent success has fueled rumors he could be dealt before the July 31 deadline.
''Trying not to listen to it, you know?'' Liriano said. ''No matter if I worry about it, if I don't worry about it, it's not going to change anything. So just happy to be here, and whatever happens, happens. I don't know what's going to happen.''
Liriano is 5-0 with a 2.68 ERA in his last six starts versus the White Sox (50-45), who have lost five straight following a three-game sweep at the hands of the Tigers that knocked them out of the AL Central lead. Chicago fell 1 1/2 games behind Detroit after Sunday's 6-4 defeat.
''We took one on the chin,'' manager Robin Ventura said.
The White Sox hope to get a boost from the return of Gavin Floyd, who will make his first start since being placed on the disabled list with right elbow tendinitis.
Floyd (7-8, 4.54 ERA) didn't allow a run in three of four starts before getting injured, pitching 7 2-3 innings of four-hit ball in a 2-0 win over Toronto on July 7.
The right-hander, who went 3-1 with a 1.37 ERA in those outings, tossed a bullpen session Friday and said he's ready to return.
"Compared to the last time I was on the mound, it feels a ton better," Floyd told the team's official website. "Tendinitis takes time to get out of there."
He pitched seven shutout innings in a 3-2 win at Minnesota on June 26, ending a stretch of eight consecutive losses with an 8.86 ERA spanning nearly three years against the Twins.
Floyd, though, has lost his last four starts while compiling at 13.03 ERA against Minnesota at U.S. Cellular Field. He was tagged for nine runs in 3 2-3 innings of a 9-2 loss May 22.
The Twins are coming off a 7-5 win over Kansas City on Sunday to take two of three in the series. Ryan Doumit, hitting .354 over his last 26, joined Chili Davis (1992) and Roy Smalley (1986) as the only Twins to homer from both sides of the plate in the same game.
"He's a force in the middle of our lineup. He can do a lot of things - outfield, catch, DH, first base a little," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "And he can swing the bat."
The White Sox, though, have won eight of 10 meetings at home.