CHICAGO -- There were two people who could really relate to the pressure heaped upon Francisco Liriano as he sat one out away from his first career no-hitter during Minnesota's 1-0 victory over the White Sox on Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Field.
Mark Buehrle was one, having no-hit the Rangers on April 18, 2007, and then following up that effort with a perfect game against the Rays on July 23, 2009. The other was Edwin Jackson, who just happened to be the starting and losing pitcher for the White Sox on this evening.
On June 25, 2010, Jackson went on a roller-coaster ride over nine innings for the D-backs against the Rays at Tropicana Field. He walked eight, struck out six, hit B.J. Upton twice and threw a mere 149 pitches before Jason Bartlett grounded out to short to complete his no-hitter, which also finished at 1-0.
At the end of that particular performance, Jackson's ERA dipped all the way to 4.63. He was having an All-Star season compared to Liriano's 6.61 ERA at the end of his showing on Tuesday, which also marked his first complete game as a professional hurler.
"One hit can be a great day or one hit can be an almost day," said Jackson of the in-game no-hitter mind-set. "It's one of those things.
"It's his first complete game, so it's one of those things where you have to stay in the same mode and really [not] let the game affect you. He stayed in control of the game, regardless of whether he walked someone or he was a little erratic, but he made his pitches when he needed them."
Jackson would have won on most nights with the control he featured on Tuesday. Although, with the continued struggles from the White Sox offense -- already having been shut out four times -- a starter almost needs to be perfect to pick up a victory. After giving up 27 hits and 17 earned runs over his last 16 2/3 innings, covering three starts, Jackson allowed one run on six hits over eight innings against the Twins.
Minnesota was able to break a six-game losing streak by virtue of Jason Kubel's solo home run on a 1-2 pitch with one out in the fourth. One pitch or one hit can turn history into just another great start, as Jackson pointed out.
But in this instance, one pitch cost Jackson the game.
"A solo home run. That was the game," Jackson said. "I just had to get back to attack the strike zone and be relaxed and not try to pitch and be aggressive and not lose that throughout the game to enable a big inning to happen. That's what we did tonight. Just go out and continue to pound the zone and make them put the ball in play."
"He pitched great, too. It was just one bad pitch," said Minnesota center fielder Denard Span of Jackson. "It was definitely a pitchers' duel. You have to tip our cap off to him, too. Any time you only give up one run, you hope to win, but Francisco Liriano was just a couple pitches better than him."
As Adam Dunn pointed out, Minnesota cashed in on one of Jackson's few mistakes. The White Sox could not do the same against Liriano.
Just two starts ago on April 23 at Comerica Park, Jackson was the opposing pitcher when the Tigers' Brad Penny took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. Jackson quickly dismissed that bad-luck theory by pointing to the seven earned runs on 12 hits he allowed over 5 2/3 innings against Detroit.
While Penny pursued that no-hitter, Jackson wasn't thinking about what the opposition was doing, but he could relate to the thoughts swirling around in his mind. And when Liriano retired Dunn on a line drive to shortstop Matt Tolbert, completing a two-strikeout, six-walk no-hitter, Jackson knew the precise first thought to come from the Minnesota southpaw.
"I did it!" said Jackson with a smile. "That was one of those situations where it's not really over until it's over.
"Even with two outs in the ninth inning, that last guy can get a hit. But you definitely aren't really relieved until that last out is officially made and then you can enjoy the excitement that comes around it."