PITTSBURGH — Francisco Liriano will take the hill for the Pirates, and Brewers manager Craig Counsell was asked about Liriano’s walk rate and if that was an area that the Brewers could take advantage of after drawing nine free passes against Jeff Locke and the bullpen Wednesday night.
Liriano leads the National League with 62 walks and is walking 5.7 batters per nine innings, a career high. The difference, as we’ve discussed at length, is that Liriano isn’t getting as many swings on pitches outside of the zone. It was interesting, though, to see the level of knowledge Counsell and the Brewers had of the situation.
“He works on the edges of the strike zone,” Counsell said. “He’s very good at it getting swings outside of the strike zone. He always has been. Tonight is a night that identifying that bottom of the strike zone and the inside part of the strike zone is really important. Tonight’s game will go based on [whether] we keep him in the strike zone. If we make him throw in the strike zone, then I think we’ll have a good night. If we chase him outside the strike zone — which is what he’s trying to get you to do — he wins the battle.”
On that front, the Pirates feel that the most important tool in Liriano’s arsenal is keeping his arm slot the same throughout his repertoire, and that makes sense. The pitch that Liriano throws outside of the zone the most often is his slider, and any difference in his delivery that would allow an opponent to identify it more quickly would make it easier for them to take pitches out of the zone. Hurdle said Liriano has made some progress to that end in recent starts.
“He’s created that arm slot and all three pitches are coming out of it. Everything looks the same. The changeup and fastball combination have played better together the last three outings. The slider has turned into a swing-and-miss pitch again. He’s throwing it for strikes and throwing it for chase. The angle and the ball are down much better and he’s locating the ball better.”
FIRST OUT OF THE GATE
Adam Frazier will start at second base and lead off. It’s the first appearance at the top for the order for Frazier, but it’s a spot he’s comfortable with, as he’s been a top-of-the-order hitter for much of his minor league career.
His mantra at the top spot is to “just work.”
“Make the pitcher work a little bit, try to get a pitch to hit. Pretty much just anything you can do to get on base. Try to get a few bags, and try to work the pitcher more when I get on base.”
So far in his rookie season, Frazier has been able to have success with whatever been asked, pretty much every step of the way. Frazier’s progression from pinch-hitter to fill-in lead-off man has been a rewarding one.
“For sure,” he said. “Any time you’re in [the lineup], you’re obviously happy. I’m in the lead-off spot, so I’ve got some responsibilities tonight. I’ll do what I can.”
Wednesday night, Frazier appeared as a pinch-hitter and tried to bunt for a base hit with no one one. He ended up on second. Creating that kind of havoc on the basepaths is what Frazier is all about.
“I just try to put pressure on the other team,” he said. “The more pressure you can put on another team, that’s when mistakes happen.”
Eric Fryer will start in place of Francisco Cervelli. The Pirates are planning to rest Cervelli somewhat frequently as he returns from hamate bone surgery. John Jaso is hitting sixth. Jaso is 1-for-13 with six strikeouts since the break.
Update 6:50 p.m: Left fielder Starling Marte has been scratched with flu-like symptoms. Gregory Polanco will move from right field to left field. Matt Joyce will play in right and hit fourth.