Liriano Stops McCaskill's No-Hit Bid This Time : Blue Jays' .220 Hitter Broke Up Nolan Ryan's Gem in the Ninth Inning Sunday

Times Staff Writer

To Nelson Liriano, every at-bat is in the past. It is history, and it can be of no help to him later.

That is why he says he was not thinking of past at-bats when he stepped in to face Kirk McCaskill at Anaheim Stadium in the ninth inning Friday night, with McCaskill three outs from a no-hitter.

Specifically, Liriano said, he was not thinking of last Sunday, when he stepped to the plate with one out in the ninth and Nolan Ryan on the mound, closing in on what would have been his sixth no-hitter.

That no-hitter never came, and neither did McCaskill's.

Liriano, a .220 hitter with just more than a year of major league experience, sent McCaskill's first pitch of the inning into left-center field for a double, breaking up a no-hitter in the ninth inning for the second time in less than a week.

Against Ryan, he hit a one-out triple in the ninth.

Whatever was or wasn't in Liriano's mind, it was a bit more clear what was being thought in the Toronto dugout.

The Blue Jays were thinking very hard about one of Liriano's past at-bats.

"Definitely," said Jesse Barfield, who nearly broke up the no-hitter with a long fly ball to left field that was saved only by Dante Bichette's running catch.

"McCaskill threw the ball very well. You have to give him a lot of credit. But we had our secret weapon. We had Nelson Liriano."

McCaskill had an inkling about Toronto's secret weapon too.

"Between the eighth and ninth innings, I figured I'd see (Liriano)," McCaskill said. "Baseball is a very superstitious sport, so I thought I'd see him."

Afterward, Liriano seemed rather emotionless about his rather remarkable accomplishment.

He was clear on one thing though. At the plate, he was thinking only of the at-bat at hand.

"I can't think about two things at the same time," he said.

The old refrain.

"Sunday is in the past," he said. "Every game is past, is history. That is what makes me feel more comfortable. I only have to think about the present."

Friday night, with Toronto trailing the Angels, 9-0, the present was not much consolation.

A chance at victory, even a chance to score a run, seemed a long way off. But Toronto Manager Jimy Williams said he did not send Liriano to the plate for Tom Lawless to break up the no-hitter--hard as that is to believe.

Liriano says he stepped in just wanting to reach base.

And he did, the easy way.

Liriano, a fastball hitter, said the ball he hit was a sinker.

"I was ready for the first pitch," he said. "He wasn't throwing too many balls. He hadn't walked a lot of guys."

Liriano didn't celebrate on the field, and he didn't celebrate in the clubhouse. He sat down to a meal and a beer, showered, strolled over to answer questions--many of them the same as he had answered Sunday.

"I'm just a pinch-hitter," he said. "I don't think about breaking up the no-hitter, I think about getting on base. But I am happy it happened.

"I feel excited. I feel good about myself. I never think I would go break two no-hitters in the ninth."

And especially not two in a week. But now, as Liriano would say, that is in the past.

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