Stopper Liriano Pitches Seven Scoreless in 5-2 Pirates Win

Francisco Liriano Pirates

Francisco Liriano dug up another gem for his 12th win of the season. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

When the Pirates need to stop a losing streak, they send out their stopper.

Francisco Liriano has become the stopper. He and the Pirates are now 12-4 in his starts after beating the Colorado Rockies 5-2 on Saturday night, and by doing so stopped a two-game losing streak from turning into a losing skid.

Winter’s best free agent signing pitched seven shutout innings, struck out six batters and allowed only two Rockies hits, and Liriano continues to build himself back to his All-Star form and construct a case for Cy Young Award contention.

“Everything’s been going the way I want it to,” Liriano said. “Not gonna lie, I’m a little surprised. I try not to think about it too much.”

Liriano is not yet eligible for the ERA title, but he will eventually if he pitches 162+ innings this year and will be there by August’s end if he continues to average seven innings per start. If he were, this is where he would rank in NL for rate stats:

  • 2.02 earned run average (2nd)
  • 2.72 fielding independent pitching (4th)
  • 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings (7th)

Clayton Kershaw is the National League’s Cy Young winner, but Liriano continues to plug away on an incredible comeback season. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said the biggest change the starter has made is a change in attitude with men on:

“Where he does get a runner on base, it’s a completely different pitcher on the mound. He used to try to make them disappear by striking everybody out, by overpowering people. Now he’s calmed himself down. It’s about one pitch to get a double play. It’s about staying focused, rhythm and tempo for the defense.”

For his part, Liriano agrees. He walked five batters Saturday but did not allow any of them to score.

“Every time I walk a guy, it’s [mostly] trying to overthrow, trying to do too much. I just tell myself when I’ve got men on base, not try to do too much. Hit my spots and let the guys behind make some plays for me. We got a couple double plays today. That was amazing.”

Here is his catcher Saturday night:

Liriano certainly received offensive assistance as the Pirates got 11 hits and scored one run apiece in innings 3 through 7.

  • 3rd Inning: Starling Marte leads off by hitting a line-drive single, steals second, then is driven in by Andrew McCutchen’s RBI double off the top of the right-field wall
  • 4th Inning: Jose Tabata rips a full-count fastball from Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa for a home run to right-center, his third of the season and first since May 11.
  • 5th Inning: Marte draws a leadoff walk, then Jordy Mercer lines a single to chase De La Rosa. Two batters later, reliever Adam Ottavino gives up a chopping RBI single to Gaby Sanchez.
  • 6th Inning: Tabata leads off by lacing a triple to left-center and scores on Josh Harrison’s suicide squeeze bunt.
  • 7th Inning: McCutchen hits a two-out single to left, steals second then scores on another Gaby Sanchez RBI single off Ottavino.

The top six hitters in Clint Hurdle’s lineup were all right-handers against the left-handed De La Rosa, and they went 6-for-12 against the starter. The names: Marte, Mercer, McCutchen, Gaby Sanchez, Tony Sanchez, Tabata…

“I couldn’t care less what people think of name guys. We’re all about winning games,” Hurdle said. “These guys have been effective [against lefties]. They’re not household names anywhere but here. And that’s good enough… I thought we had good focus in the box.”

Tony Watson got knocked for three singles in his four batters and charged with two runs, but Bryan Morris drew a double play to end the 8th and Mark Melancon pitched a 1-2-3 inning for his 6th save.

Here are three things that are not stopping: The Pirates have baseball’s best record, they are 1.5 games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals to lead the National League Central and they sit 8.5 games ahead of any NL team looking to get into the playoff picture.

James Santelli

Author: James Santelli

James covers the Pirates beat for Pirates Prospects. He is a Broadcast Journalism student at USC and has written for such outlets as NBCOlympics.com, Pittsburgh Magazine and the official websites of the Los Angeles Clippers and Pittsburgh Penguins. James previously covered the Pirates for Pittsburgh Sports Report. He also broadcasts play-by-play for the USC Trojans baseball team and was awarded the 2013 Chick Hearn Memorial Scholarship and Allan Malamud Scholarship. James dispenses puns at his Twitter account (@JamesSantelli) where he promises to write in first-person. Google

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  • https://profiles.google.com/116899082423235635777 Monsoon Harvard

    When will Liriano finally have enough innings to qualify for the Earned Run Average leaders?
    Once he finally does, the Pirates will have two of the best in the top three.

    • James Santelli

      Innings Pitched have to be greater than Team Games Played. Right now Liriano has 102.2 innings and the Pirates have played 110 games. I provide some of the math in the story.

  • impliedi

    It’s pretty amazing to think that if the Pirates go on a hot streak and go 34-18 the rest of the way….it would be a 100-win season…. Unlikely, but not totally out of the realm of possibility anymore.

  • CalipariFan506

    When are fans going to realize the Pirates are better vs LH starting pitching than RH? Marte, McCutchen and the catchers kills lefties. And Gaby vs lefties >>> Jones vs righties.