SOMEWHERE OFF THE PA TURNPIKE – For the Pirates, for any team, to advance into October and then be competitive in the postseason they require top-of-the-rotation pitchers to pitch like elite arms. Well, Francisco Liriano is getting back to being the ace he was last season.
Liriano was in 2013-, Cy Young-vote-receiving, NL Comeback Player of the Year-form last night in striking out a season-high 12 strikeouts over eight shutout innings as the Pirates capped a successful 10-game road trip.
Really, Liriano has been great in the second half since has returned to full health. In 69 second-half innings, he has a 2.22 ERA and he’s striking out 10.5 batters per nine innings, an elite rate. He’s striking out more batters per nine innings than he did a year. Last night, Liriano looked much like the guy who dominated the Reds in the wild card playoff game last year. His fastball command has improved and his slider never left.