Liriano an increasingly strong rotation candidate

Should Blue Jays reach postseason, veteran lefty would make fine No. 4 starter

Liriano an increasingly strong rotation candidate

TORONTO -- In spite of a tough 3-2 loss to the Orioles at Rogers Centre on Wednesday night, there was a silver lining for the Blue Jays.

Left-hander Francisco Liriano continued his recent trend of dominance, firing 6 1/3 innings of scoreless ball while striking out 10, bolstering his case to be part of Toronto's postseason rotation.

Liriano's resurgence adds a degree of certainty to an already strong Blue Jays rotation that has reeled off 13 consecutive starts with two earned runs or fewer. The power lefty spent time as the sixth starter in Toronto's rotation after being acquired from the Pirates earlier this season but has worked his way up the depth chart.

After being pushed to the bullpen earlier this month, Liriano made his return to the rotation on Sept. 12. Since then, the 32-year-old has gone at least six innings in each of his four starts, allowing a total of four earned runs. Over his last two outings, the veteran has thrown 12 1/3 scoreless frames while allowing a total of nine hits.

"You look back these last few starts, and he's on a roll," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He's still got a great arm. He's got a lot of strikeouts and his fastball has gone both ways, but he's keeping it in the zone.

"He hasn't been falling behind. He's getting some big outs. He's got that great slider as a strikeout pitch, and he's throwing a pretty good changeup right now, too. He's got it all working right now. He did a super job."

With Toronto's top three of Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada all but set in stone should Toronto qualify for the postseason and reach the American League Division Series, Liriano's September run could give him an edge as the club's fourth starter.

On Wednesday, Liriano also broke out a curveball for the first time since joining the Blue Jays, striking out Chris Davis in a critical bases-loaded situation during the top of the fifth. Liriano had been working on the pitch since early in the season with Pittsburgh, and he has continued to refine it throughout the year.

"It gives the batter a different look," Liriano said. "It's a different pitch, a get-me-over pitch. It depends on how well it's going to work for me this year, but I'm probably going to use it more."

While Liriano said he isn't worrying about anything other than helping Toronto make the postseason, he added that he feels confident in his second-half performance, with his ERA since he joined the Blue Jays down to 2.92.

"I've been working my mechanics, and it's been working well for me," said Liriano. "It's not how you start; it's how you finish. It's been going well for me lately. I just hope that it keeps going like that."

Alykhan Ravjiani is a reporter for based in Toronto. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.