Pirates Notebook: “New” Rotation Key to 8-Game Win Streak

Francisco Liriano Pitching
Francisco Liriano’s season ERA has dropped three runs from last year, allowing 1.6 fewer walks per nine. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

For more than half of last season, from June to August, the Pirates used a rotation that included A.J. Burnett, Kevin Correia, Erik Bedard, James McDonald, Brad Lincoln, Jeff Karstens and Wandy Rodriguez. None of them are on the team’s current active roster.

Instead, Pittsburgh has gone 13-4 in its last 17 games with a “new” staff of Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, Charlie Morton, Jeff Locke, Brandon Cumpton and Jeanmar Gomez. Over those 17 games, the group has collected a 2.64 ERA and has allowed more than three runs only once.

“It can be contagious in so many areas,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “They’re handing the baton to one another and nobody wants to drop it.”

Morton takes the mound Sunday to try to complete a home sweep against the Milwaukee Brewers. Liriano, who joined the Pirates this offseason, took the baton Saturday night to pitch six innings and allow one run to extend the team’s winning streak to eight games.

“We’re having fun. We’re playing hard,” Liriano said. “Last two years they played a pretty good first half… We just have to keep playing the way we’re playing right now.”

Bonus Notes!

  • Surgery is not currently on the table for Wandy Rodriguez. He is scheduled to receive an injection for tightness in his left (throwing) elbow, putting his rehab on “pause.” While stopping Rodriguez from throwing delays his return, not having to get surgery is a good sign. His durability over the last few seasons and status as a veteran pitcher means a shot is not a huge setback, according to one scout who said Rodriguez has healed from forearm tightness before.

[Update: A previous version of this story noted that Rodriguez had received a cortisone shot. Hurdle said that Rodriguez had received “the injection,” but did not specify if it was cortisone or not. Rodriguez may not have actually received an injection yet. If he has not, he will.]

  • Clint Barmes will start at shortstop Sunday for the first time since June 14. Hurdle said Barmes “has been the consummate pro” in taking on a bench role while “Jordy [Mercer] has earned the bulk of playing time.” The manager added that Barmes is capable of playing other positions off the bench (he did so in Colorado), but will probably stick to playing shortstop off the bench in the near-future.
  • A.J. Burnett is still scheduled to pitch a simulated game Tuesday.
  • Jared Hughes pitched a bullpen session without pain for the first time and will take the mound again Tuesday.
  • Sunday’s game will mark the third time Michael McKenry has caught Morton in the pitcher’s four starts.

Starting Lineups (AVG/OBP/SLG)

Milwaukee Brewers (32-47, 17.5 games back of Pirates)

  1. RF Nori Aoki (.290/.369/.379)
  2. SS Jean Segura (.333/.366/.517)
  3. CF Carlos Gomez (.317/.358/.573)
  4. 1B Juan Francisco (.217/.300/.467)
  5. 2B Rickie Weeks (.233/.328/.392)
  6. 3B Yuiesky Betancourt (.205/.235/.343)
  7. C Martin Maldonado (.171/.240/.306)
  8. LF Jordan Schafer (.214/.264/.290)
  9. RHP Kyle Lohse (3.69 ERA/57 K/15 BB)

Pittsburgh Pirates (50-30, Best record in MLB)

  1. LF Starling Marte (.287/.343/.466)
  2. 2B Neil Walker (.251/.357/.396)
  3. CF Andrew McCutchen (.293/.358/.465)
  4. RF Garrett Jones (.260/.310/.424)
  5. 3B Pedro Alvarez (.247/.310/.522)
  6. 1B Gaby Sanchez (.239/.346/.439)
  7. C Michael McKenry (.202/.256/.357)
  8. SS Clint Barmes (.201/.234/.268)
  9. RHP Charlie Morton (2.81 ERA/12 K/6 BB)
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Wow!! Two months ago, if you told me the Pirates rotation was Cole, Liriano, Locke, Compton, Gomez, and Morton I would have said it was one of the weaker rotations in the majors. Most felt Gomez should not have made the team and there were large question marks for the other 5. Time to give credit to Ray Searage. Is he the best pitching coach in the majors? He has to be in that conversation.

Matt Beam

or barmes playing SS. He’s only in there for his D and then boots one in the 2nd inning for another unearned run

IC Bob

Its really not fair to Morton to have Ft mac behind the plate against the Brewers. The over under for steals is 4. I think I will bet over,


Intriguing note on McKenry…preference or fluke I wonder?

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