The Pittsburgh Pirates came back to beat the New York Yankees 6-5 today, recovering from some early game struggles by Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez. Both pitchers gave up two runs in one inning of work, although the Pirates were able to rebound late with a four run seventh inning to take the lead and their first victory of the Grapefruit League season.
Liriano All About the Sinker
Francisco Liriano only went one inning in today’s game, and the results weren’t good. He gave up two runs on a walk and three hits in his first outing of Spring Training. Pirates fans will hope that this version of Liriano doesn’t show up on Opening Day. At least from an approach standpoint, he won’t.
Liriano was focused today on one pitch, his sinker. His approach early in Spring Training is to get command of his fastball and sinker, then mix in his slider later. Today he only threw two sliders and one changeup, and didn’t throw any four seam fastballs. Locating the sinker was the priority, since he didn’t throw many sinkers over the off-season. The specific focus is finding his release point on the pitch.
“I use my slider a lot, so I need to get the fastball command better in order to pitch in the game…not just throw one pitch,” Liriano said.
Liriano will go two innings in his next start. His focus will still be on the fastball and sinker early in camp.
Sanchez Does it Again
Tony Sanchez hit his second home run in as many games, and his first in Grapefruit League action. The homer came in the bottom of the seventh inning with the Pirates down 5-2 and two men on base. Sanchez took a 1-0 pitch to center field, tying the score at 5-5. He also singled in the eighth inning,
“What that approach allows me to do is drive fastballs the other way, and stay on the slider like I did today and drive it to left-center,” Sanchez said about hitting to opposite field. Whenever I get pull happy, or start thinking of left field, I come off balls and don’t square them up very well. If I’m thinking to the right side, it allows me to stay close, stay inside that slider, and drive it to wherever that may be.”
**The Pirates practiced a few shifts in game one. They got Carlos Beltran to ground out to Pedro Alvarez, who was shifted over to the shortstop position. I didn’t notice if they had any outfield shifts on.
**Starling Marte was wearing his “oven mitt” on the bases today. Clint Hurdle said it was a permanent thing. “Better safe than sorry with him,” Hurdle said. “Doesn’t slow him down.”
**Clint Hurdle said that the Pirates have a handful of guys who they want to build up to three innings and 50 pitches. At a certain point in camp they will determine which guys will move on from there, and which guys will be scaled back to shorter relief roles.
**Jeanmar Gomez pitched a shutout inning today with one strikeout, which came after the earlier pitchers struggled. Hurdle talked about what worked so well for Gomez last year.
“He kept the ball down and sunk it really well,” Hurdle said. “Then his slider came into play. So the combination of spin and sink, and the fact that he stayed in the bottom of the zone was really a step forward for him. Because that wasn’t exactly the MO when he was in the American League starting.”
**Travis Ishikawa will need a few days to rest his leg. He left the Black and Gold game yesterday with a tight right leg.