Hurdle on Liriano; Jordy Mercer Injury Update

Francisco Liriano gets the nod tonight against Boston, making his 27th start of the season.

Liriano has pitched like an ace in the second half of the season, with a 2.22 ERA and a 2.68 xFIP. One of the big differences in Liriano’s performance in the second half has been his ability to limit the walks and command all three of his pitches. Liriano lowered his first half 4.91 BB/9 to 3.26 BB/9 in the second half. His better command has raised his strikeout rate to 29% in the second half, which is 3rd in all of baseball, behind only Corey Kluber and Chris Sale.

Hurdle credits Liriano’s strong second half to his health. Hurdle explained that he didn’t begin the season at 100% health, and it challenged him to hold his delivery.

“When the oblique [injury] showed up, that obviously shut him down. I think he got rested, I think he was very good in his approach to his rehab, and when he did come back he was 100% healthy. He had no limitations, no reservations, and he’s pitched like it. It got him back to a good place on the mound. He is confident and his fastball effectiveness makes everything else play,” Hurdle said.

The effectiveness of Liriano’s off-speed pitches have also played a major role in his success in the second half. Hurdle raved about Liriano’s change-up in his last start against Philadelphia.

“Sometimes you feel like you can yell change-up and it’ll still be hard to hit. The counts that he is able to throw it in is what makes a very solid fastball, velocity-wise, play even bigger. He can throw [his change-up] in 2-0 counts, in 3-2 counts, it [makes for] a different dynamic at the plate.”

Having this version of Liriano gives the Pirates an ace-type pitcher that they can match up with any other team in October.

Mercer Update

Jordy Mercer is being held out of the starting lineup again for the second straight night, as he is dealing with tightness in his back.

Hurdle says that the trainers will be testing him before the game to see what his availability is for tonight’s contest. His injury does not appear to be more than a day-to-day concern.

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