After six no-hitters last year, Major League Baseball is on a pace to match that total this season.

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There were two no-hitters thrown in the past week, one by Minnesota’s Francisco Liriano, the other by Detroit’s Justin Verlander. At this time last season, there were also two no-no’s thrown.

Liriano’s came last Tuesday night at Chicago. Verlander’s was on Saturday at Toronto.

For Liriano, his gem came after a poor start to the season. He was 1-4 with a 9.13 ERA entering the game. And it wasn’t pretty. Liriano walked six and struck out two, and he needed help from his defense, which turned three double plays.

In the ninth inning, with Juan Pierre on first base following his third walk of the night, Liriano got Adam Dunn to line out to shortstop Matt Tolbert for the final out in a 1-0 win over the White Sox. It was a great relief to the lefthander from the Dominican Republic.

“I thought it was a base hit,” Liriano said. “When I saw him catch it, I was so excited.”

Then ninth inning had started with Brent Morel grounding to short, and Tolbert’s throw hit the dirt before first baseman Justin Morneau scooped up the ball for the out.

Liriano matched his career high with 123 pitches. It was his first complete game in 95 big league starts.

“It was a crazy night,” Liriano said. “To be honest, I was running out of gas. I just thank my teammates that they made some great plays behind me.”

Center fielder Denard Span made one of those plays with a catch of Carlos Quentin’s long drive in the fourth inning. Third baseman Danny Valencia made another in the seventh, going behind the bag in foul territory to grab Quentin’s grounder, and making a strong throw to first.

And the Twins had a little bit of luck on their side in the eighth when Gordon Beckham was called out at first to complete a double play. Replays showed that Justin Morneau, who took a wide throw from second baseman Alexi Casilla, missed the tag. But first base umpire Paul Emmel called Beckham out.

Jason Kubel provided the only offense the Twins needed with a fourth-inning home run.

Liriano, who went 12-3 in 2006, had Tommy John surgery on his elbow at the end of that season and missed the 2007 season. He won 11 games the next two years before going 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA last season, earning him the AL Comeback Player of the Year.

Unlike Liriano, Verlander had previously pitched a no-hitter. He got his second career gem in the Tigers 9-0 win over the Blue Jays.

“I was a lot calmer today,” Verlander said. “Obviously, there’s some adrenaline, but having been through this situation before, I was definitely able to calm myself down a little bit easier than last time.”

Verlander nearly threw a perfect game. He allowed only one base runner when he walked J.P. Arencibia with one out in the eighth inning.

“Right out of my fingertips, I knew it was just a hair outside,” Verlander said of ball four.

Verlander fanned four Toronto batters. He struck out 12 in his first no-hitter against Milwaukee in 2007. In this game, Verlander struck out Rajai Davis to end the game.

With Liriano’s no-hitter coming on Tuesday and Verlander’s on Saturday, it was the 17th time in major league history that there have been two no-hitters thrown within a five-day span.

StatsWatch: The 2010 season was a big one for no-hitters, with six thrown overall. Here’s the list:

  • — Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies, 4-0 vs. Atlanta, April 17, 2010
  • — Dallas Braden, A’s, 4-0 vs. Tampa Bay, May 9, 2010 (perfect game).
  • — Roy Halladay, Phillies, 1-0 vs. Florida, May 29, 2010 (perfect game).
  • — Edwin Jackson, Diamondbacks, 1-0 vs. Tampa Bay, June 26, 2010.
  • — Matt Garza, Rays, 5-0 vs. Detroit, July 26, 2010.
  • — Roy Halladay, Phillies, 4-0 vs. Cincinnati, Oct. 6, 2010, NLDS.

Diamond Notes: Boston’s Carl Crawford was hitting just .135 last week, but increased his average to .211 early this week…Derek Jeter hit his first two home runs of the season in the Yankees 12-5 win over Texas on Monday. He also went 4-for-4…The Reds’ Joey Votto saw his streak of reaching base safely in all 33 games that he had played come to an end on Sunday against the Cubs. That was one game shy of the team’s modern-day record to start a season, set by Dave Collins in 1981…Rangers’ OF Josh Hamilton, who broke his right arm in a headfirst slide into home on April 12, plans to begin taking batting practice on Friday…Milton Bradley was designated for assignment by the Mariners after hitting .216 with two home runs and six RBIs this season. Bradley, 33, has had trouble follow him to nearly every stop he has made in the majors. He was ejected in last Friday’s game against the White Sox and booed for poor defense on Saturday.

Copyright © 2011 Bob Hurst. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media. All Rights Reserved.

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