Liriano neutralizes lefty-mashing Tigers

Bucs southpaw drops ERA to 2.99 in completing sweep vs. potent lineup

Liriano neutralizes lefty-mashing Tigers

DETROIT -- The hard-to-hit left-hander went up against the team that hits lefties hard on Thursday afternoon. It was no contest.

Francisco Liriano pitted his miniscule opponents' average (.189) against the masculine Tigers' .276 average against southpaws -- third best in the Majors -- and pulled rank with seven scoreless innings in the Pirates' 8-4 win to cap a three-game sweep at Comerica Park.

Suffice it to say, the Bucs swung their brooms better than did the Tigers their bats against Liriano.

"With what he had today -- the fastball, the changeup, the slider -- they weren't able to sit on any one pitch," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He did an excellent job of remaining the aggressor and making pitches. That's a very good lineup against left-handed pitching."

The proficiency at that of the all-righty gauntlet rolled out by Detroit manager Brad Ausmus was headlined by Victor Martinez, the switch-hitting designated hitter. Individually, Martinez was 13-for-28 against Liriano.

Liriano didn't budge -- unless you call a rise in his season opponents' average to .190 a budge.

"Everything was down, and I used both sides of the plate," said Liriano, who in addition to surrendering five hits walked three but didn't allow anyone to reach third base. "Everything was working pretty good. I just had to make sure to not overthrow."

Liriano hung an 0-for-3 on Martinez, two of their meetings coming with men on base in what still was a low-scoring affair.

"I just let the guys behind me make plays," Liriano said of getting Martinez to ground out twice and line out once. "The whole key for me is not to try make perfect pitches, because that's when I leave it right down the middle. So I just went out to make sure to hit my spots."

"He pitched aggressively; he hides the ball well," catcher Francisco Cervelli said.

Liriano hid it well enough to turn in his eighth start (out of 16) without allowing more than one run. This one was even more satisfying because it also came as Liriano went at least seven innings for the eighth time.

"It's nice to go out there and go deep in the game," Liriano said after toting his share of the heavy load the Pittsburgh rotation has shouldered for weeks.

"Even though his first-pitch strikes weren't [great], he got to a lot of 1-1 counts, then was right back in it, executing pitches, and went to work from there," Hurdle said. "An excellent job."

It paid off in only Liriano's fifth win in six decisions, despite a 2.99 ERA to accompany that sterling OBA. But at least this one came over a Detroit team that had taken nine of its last 10 decisions from the former Twins starter.

"I didn't even think about that," Liriano said. "That's in the past."

So, for the time being, is the Tigers' reputation as southpaw beaters.

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 and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.