Quiet Liriano earns first win, extends impressive run
Lefty holds D-backs scoreless in 6 1/3-inning stint
PHOENIX -- Quietly -- characteristic because the soft-spoken left-hander does everything quietly -- Francisco Liriano has become one of the National League's elite pitchers.
Liriano was at his best Sunday, contributing the first 6 1/3 innings to the series-sweeping 8-0 win over the Diamondbacks, but he has been at his "very good" for a long time. This was the 11th consecutive start in which he has given up no more than three runs, and since the first of those, on Aug. 25, he owns an ERA of 1.58 that is the lowest in the NL.
As an occasional victim of low run support, he also owns only five wins over that stretch, camouflage for deserved esteem.
"The wins get everybody's attention," manager Clint Hurdle said, nodding. "So he very well could be underappreciated. But we like having him a lot , giving him the ball every fifth day.
"You know you got a fight on your hands when you face him."
Sometimes, you have far less -- because that would imply you at least have a fighting chance. Down by two runs even before Liriano's first pitch, the D-backs had none of that, even on a day the lefty had fleeting control.
Liriano issued six walks, because he could not command his fastball. So he called on his slider and changeup to torment Arizona hitters. He was credited with throwing 62 strikes among his 108 pitches. Only 17 of those were called; the others came on chase swings. (Hey, they were playing in Chase Field).
"I was able to get away from trying to do too much for a couple of innings, then, in the last one, I was kind of rushing it again," said Liriano, who departed after issuing consecutive walks with one out in the seventh. "Especially early, I got behind in the count a lot."
He seemed put at ease after the Bucs doubled their lead from 2-0 to 4-0 in the fifth inning, making his first win twice as likely. It was a milestone victory in one sense, leaving him only a win over Miami (the Bucs host the Marlins May 25-27 and visit them Aug. 24-27) from becoming the 13th pitcher to own a win over each of the 30 Major League clubs.
That might raise Liriano's profile.
"This guy competes, and that's what we need," Hurdle said. "He's an experienced guy who gives us what we need every time out."
Liriano just wants to take his place, and his turn, in the Bucs' clicking rotation.
"We're in a good place right now, where we want to be," he said after having joined Gerrit Cole and A.J. Burnett to hold Arizona to two runs in 21 innings. "We're pretty comfortable right now, and if we keep playing hard every day, we'll have a lot of fun when it's over."