What better way for Francisco Liriano to rebound from his worst outing of the year than by pitching his best outing in years? Liriano took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning and bested Stephen Strasburg in a pitchers' duel as the Pirates beat the Washington Nationals 4-2 Wednesday night at Nationals Park. Liriano allowed two hits over 7 2/3 scoreless innings striking out eight and walking three to earn his team-leading 10th victory and give the Pirates their fourth win in a row. He received a rousing ovation from the thousands of Pirates fans were among the 33636 in attendance when he walked off the field with two outs in the eighth. Strasburg was just as impressive allowing one run on two hits in eight innings throwing 118 pitches. He struck out 12 his highest strikeout total since June 8 2012 when he erased 13 Boston Red Sox. With the victory the Pirates (60-39) matched their high-water mark for this season at 21 games over .500. It wasn't just the stat line that made this Liriano's best performance in years. It was the quality of his pitches. His fastball hit 97 mph for the first time since 2010. And his sharp breaking slider climbed to 89 mph which makes it nearly unhittable. And for a while Liriano was unhittable. He faced two batters over the minimum through the first 52/3 innings both reaching base on walks. He has credited his resurgence this season to a tweaked delivery and his decision to try not to "overthrow" his fastball. But he was able to put some more juice on his power pitches Wednesday night while maintaining his command. "I'm not trying to throw hard" Liriano said. "I'm not worried about speed right now. I just want to make sure I locate my pitches." What made his fastball more devastating was that it was "moving all over the place" catcher Michael McKenry said. That and his changeup kept Washington hitters on roller skates. "When he has his three pitches it's really really tough" McKenry said. "He kept them off balance all night." Liriano struggled in his first outing after the All-Star break allowing a season-high five earned runs in a season-low 41/3 innings. "I think he was disappointed in that start and did some hard work in between" Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
Liriano outduels Strasburg, Pirates beat Nationals, 4-2
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | Jul 25