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:
Catching Liriano is like playing a video game. Any pitch, any count, any time.
— Tony Sanchez (@Tony26Montana) August 4, 2013
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.