Pirates Francisco Liriano Finishing Strong


Aug 14, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano (47) stretches in the dugout during the fifth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into tonight, Pittsburgh Pirates starter Francisco Liriano hadn’t won a game since July 29.  It hasn’t always been the big southpaws fault, more often than not Liriano hasn’t received much support.  In Chicago it finally all changed.  Francisco Liriano looked like the Francisco Liriano of 2013 with the Pirates searching for every victory as the pennant race tightens.  Just when the ball club needed it, the lefty pitched a great game against the suddenly hot, but free-swinging Chicago Cubs.

The Pirates had been searching for a stopper and they may have had it all along.  Papa Francisco has an ERA of around two and a half since the All-Star break.  Against the Cubs, he threw 98 pitches, allowed a couple of walks, and put up nine strikeouts over six shutout innings.  The offense did enough too–plating three runs for Liriano before the bullpen took over.

Sep 5, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Jared Hughes (48) delivers in the seventh inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Liriano has rightfully received some ridicule because he hasn’t performed as well as he did in 2014.  Last month, Frank the Tank gave up nine runs against the Atlanta Braves.  It seems like the one outing everyone remembers.  I agree, it was really hard to forget as the Pirates chase Atlanta in the Wild Card race.  But in his other August starts, the Bucs offense could only put six runs–combined–on the board in those five starts.  Meanwhile Liriano was giving up just over two runs a game despite not going deep in games consistently enough for some (seven innings in four of past 11 starts.)  But face it, the Pirates lost all of the starts Liriano made which was the longest single-season team losing streak of the southpaws career.

The Pirates offense did more of the same on the South Side yesterday.   As Frank was mowing down the young Cubs, the Bucs could only muster two runs.  But Liriano must have realized he was going to need to shove after looking at the lineup card which didn’t include Josh Harrison–instead Brent Morel got the start.  JHay was hurt in the eleventh inning of the Bucs 5-3 win earlier in the day.

The 30-year old mixed speeds well and fired plenty of off speed stuff to keep Chicago off balance.  It was a similar start to the one the southpaw made against the Reds last Sunday.   Liriano had one rough inning.  It was the fifth–giving up a two run homer to Chris Heisey.  His teammates could only muster two runs and dropped another one run game, 3-2.  It happened against the Cards in his start on the 25th as well when he pitched six scoreless innings only to see the bullpen give it back and the Pirates dropped the game—you guessed it by one run–3-2.

In three starts against the Cubs this year, Liriano has been dominant.  Francisco Liriano versus the Cubs in 2014:  15 innings pitched, ten hits, and just two earned runs allowed.   The big number is the 23 strikeouts Liriano has put up against the scary young, suddenly awesome Cubs.

In his last ten starts, the ERA has dropped more than a full run, despite that awful outing against Atlanta.  It says here, Liriano is looking forward to facing Atlanta again in the final week of the season.

Francisco Liriano looked the stopper of 2013.