Liriano posting historic numbers against rival Cards
Amid impressive season, Pirates lefty 3-0 with 0.75 ERA vs. St. Louis
PITTSBURGH -- Francisco Liriano took his fabulous comeback season -- don't forget, in a 2012 campaign split between the Twins and the White Sox, he went 6-12 with a 5.34 ERA -- to a new level with his Friday night gem against the Cardinals.
In blanking St. Louis on two hits for eight innings of the Bucs' 5-0 win, not only did the left-hander reach a new career high of 15 wins in a delayed season he didn't begin until May 11, but he had both historians and statisticians thumbing through their books.
• It was his fifth start of the season of at least seven innings and no more than two hits allowed. That is both a Major League season high (no one else can claim more than three such starts) and the most recorded (since 1916) by a Pittsburgh hurler.
• Liriano joined Vernon Law in 1950 as the only Pirates pitchers to make three starts and post three wins against the Cardinals with an ERA ceiling of 0.75. Law went 3-0 with a 0.68; Liriano is 3-0, 0.75.
• Liriano is holding hitters on the NL's top offensive club (.270) to an average of .127. Over the past 40 seasons, no pitcher with at least 24 innings has held St. Louis to a lower mark, with the previous low mark (.133) by Tom Seaver in 1978 and Fernando Valenzuela in 1981.
The Cardinals are averaging 9.4 hits in the 131 games in which have not had to face Liriano, who in three games against the Cards has given up 10 hits.
• And, in an ode to "missing" teammate Jeff Locke, Liriano matched the seven scoreless starts of the lefty now cooling his heels in Double-A Altoona for a couple of days. That number is tied for third most in the Majors behind the Yankees' Hiroki Kuroda and the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw.
First number, last word
17: Number of times, in 19 seasons of division play, that the NL Central leader on Sept. 1 went on to claim the division title.
"He's definitely an upgrade for us. We're having a great year and definitely want to keep that going. It's just about winning right now. Yeah, obviously it changes things for me a little bit. When I do get a chance to play, I'll keep doing what I can to help the team." -- Garrett Jones, on the Pirates' acquisition of Justin Morneau, who will reduce Jones' playing time at first base
• Jared Hughes and Andrew Lambo were "optioned" to Double-A Altoona only technically Saturday, to clear roster space for Justin Morneau and righty Stolmy Pimentel. Both will be back in uniform Sunday, as roster limits expand from 25 to 40. However, the moves did make the pair ineligible for postseason play -- except as possible replacements for injured players.
• Newcomers Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau, just like that, were both tied with Andrew McCutchen for second on the Pirates with 74 RBIs, trailing Pedro Alvarez's 86 entering Saturday night's game.
• Jason Grilli's first rehab appearance, a start for Double-A Altoona on Saturday night, went smoothly. The Pirates closer, on the verge of completing his comeback from a July forearm strain, allowed one hit in a scoreless first inning, with one strikeout. Grilli, who worked with a limit of 20 pitches, needed only 13 -- 10 of them for strikes -- to retire the Akron Aeros. If he bounces back positively, Grilli will repeat the one-inning start with the Curve on Monday.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.