9/13/2013 8:11 P.M. ET
Liriano benefits from improved fastball command
By George Von Benko / Special to MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- Francisco Liriano has had a brilliant season for the Pirates, and he notched his career-high 16th win in a 5-4 victory over the Rangers on Tuesday.
Liriano became the first Pirates left-hander since John Smiley and Zane Smith in 1991 to win more than 15 games. Liriano has received a decision in each of his 23 starts since signing as a free agent in February, the most for the Pirates since Larry French got a decision in each of his first 24 starts in 1930.
Liriano has been healthy, and that is a big reason for his success this season.
"Everything feels good," Liriano said. "Everything feels great and I feel a hundred percent, and I'm just trying to get ready every start and trying to go deep in every game."
Liriano is sporting a 2.92 ERA, and he has recorded 144 strikeouts in 142 innings.
"I always had my changeup," Liriano explained. "I just had trouble locating my fastball before, and I went home and I just worked on my fastball and worked on my fastball in my bullpens, and I have been getting better every start. That makes all the difference."
"Command of the fastball has improved over the years," Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage noted. "It was a problem earlier. Now with the command of the fastball -- he always had good command with his offspeed pitches, the slider and the changeup -- now he's got three weapons to go to war with.
"Now he can pitch inside, which goes hand in hand with the fastball command. Then you can't sit on one pitch with the guy. You have to catch him when he has a bad day, which -- he's going to have them -- but in the long run, he's done a tremendous job for us and he's really grown into himself."
Postseason tickets go on sale Wednesday
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates have a chance to make their first appearance in the postseason since 1992.
The club announced on Friday that a limited number of tickets for possible National League Wild Card and Division Series games at PNC Park will go on sale to the general public on Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET. At that time, fans will have the opportunity to purchase a maximum of four tickets per person for the one possible Wild Card game and three possible Division Series games.
Fans are encouraged to purchase tickets online at Pirates.com. Tickets will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis, and all are subject to availability.
Fans wishing to purchase tickets at the PNC Park main box office may do so through a random numbered distribution system to determine ticket buyers' positions in line when tickets go on sale. The Pirates will distribute numbered wristbands on Federal Street near the PNC Park main ticket office on:
• Monday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Each fan who visits the distribution table will receive one specially designed, numbered wristband that will be attached to their wrist, and the matching number will be entered in a random drawing. Fans must be 12 years of age to receive a wristband, and only one per person will be distributed.
On Wednesday at 9 a.m., the Pirates will randomly draw one number from the corresponding wristband numbers. The fan with the matching numbered wristband will be first in line. Fans will then line up in numerical order from that point.
Fans can also purchase tickets by calling 1-877-893-BUCS.
Next step for Wandy unclear; Marte still limited
PITTSBURGH -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle provided an update on left-hander Wandy Rodriguez and outfielder Starling Marte on Friday.
Rodriguez pitched a five-inning simulated game Thursday, throwing 67 pitches. The Pirates want to see how his arm responds Friday before deciding whether to activate him from the disabled list. He has been out since June 6 with left forearm tightness.
"We reached out to Dr. James Andrews to ask his opinion on the next step," Hurdle said. "We haven't gotten a report or thought back from him. So we're on hold 'till we accumulate some information."
Marte faced lived pitching Thursday for the first time since going on the disabled list on Aug. 19 with a bruised right hand, seeing action against Rodriguez during his simulated game. The Pirates activated Marte on Sept. 7, but he has been limited to serving as a pinch-runner and a late-inning defensive replacement. The Pirates don't have a timetable for when Marte can return to the lineup.
"There was some discomfort," Hurdle said. "We've got him going out to take batting practice today. We're trying to find another option for some live batting practice that we're comfortable with to ramp up his opportunity to get back."
Marte reported that there was pain when he swung the bat.
"I feel better," Marte stated. "But it still hurts. I can throw and I can play defense."
Marte was a spark plug in the lead off spot, and the Pirates would love to have him for the stretch drive.
"I would anticipate that when he shows us the ability to swing the bat, that we're going to plug him back in the top of the lineup in left field," Hurdle said.
• Pedro Alvarez has gone 15 games without a home run since taking over the National League lead with his 32nd blast on Aug. 27. Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt has gone 20 games without a home run since hitting his 31st on Aug. 20. The Pirates' club record for most home runs hit in a season by a third baseman is held by Aramis Ramirez, who hit 34 in 2001.
• Neil Walker has hit safely in each of his past 12 games at PNC Park (21-for-45, .467), and Andrew McCutchen has gone 23-for-56 (.411) with six doubles, a home run and eight RBI in his past 16 home games.
George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.