If you predicted that Francisco Liriano would perform this well before the beginning of this season you are one of two things, either a liar, or insane. Frank The Tank got it done again last night for the Pirates, putting a stop to one of the Pirates’ ugliest skids of the season (knock on wood). Liriano just came out ready to dominate last night. He looked angry, as if he was still ruminating over his career worst start from earlier in the month against Colorado. Liriano punched out thirteen Padres hitters, over seven innings of work. That’s only eight outs on balls in play.
Greg Brown called him Papa Francisco. Yeh, great name. Papa gave up four hits, and no runs.
Liriano has staked his claim as the Pirates staff ace, and there’s nobody ready to knock him off that perch anytime this year. If the Pirates made it to the postseason as a wild card, there is no doubt that Liriano would be the one getting the ball for a one game playoff. It’s been one of the biggest pleasant surprises in a season full of them, with Liriano coming off a season where he posted an ERA over five. His attitude has been one of quiet professionalism most of the year, but there are nights like his start against the Padres where Liriano comes out ready to go.
Tony Sanchez said that catching Liriano is like catching in a video game, that he can throw any pitch, to any place, in any count. So far (excluding the Colorado game) that’s been the case with him all year. Liriano’s repertoire of pitches, combined with his ability to throw all of them well makes him a huge threat to any hitter who has the misfortune to step into the box against him this year.
There’s no reason that Liriano won’t continue to be the ace of the staff all year, and there’s no way that Clint Hurdle (in his right mind) goes to anyone for the first playoff game besides Liriano now, A.J. Burnett’s incredible veteranocity notwithstanding. Burnett is still the undisputed leader of the pitching staff and the clubhouse, but he’s no longer the top dog of the rotation. That spot belongs to Liriano for the rest of the regular season, and any playoff run the Pirates may make.