Obviously, the Pittsburgh Pirates will need several players on the active roster to step up in order for the team to be successful down the stretch. Even though numerous players must perform at a high level, who is one player in particular that the team must lean on over the next nine games?
The Pirates are so close to getting ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals for the National League Central title and are pretty much a lock for one of two Wild Card berths, unless they completely falter over the next week and a half. Obviously, it is imperative for the team to keep their foot on the gas. They also will need one player to look to as their leader heading into the postseason. That player is starting pitcher Francisco Liriano.
Liriano has been by far the most reliable starter on the team in 2013. He has posted an outstanding 16-7 record with a 2.92 earned run average and a respectable 148 strikeouts in 24 starts this season.
Not only has this been one of Lirano’s best seasons of his career, but also he did it in his first year with the Pirates. That is saying something for someone who has posted at least a 5.09 ERA in three of his last four seasons. For that reason, the players in the clubhouse must take notice. They must respond to what he says and what he does on the mound.
The Pirates expect to have Liriano pitch one more time during the regular season. However, he will be the guy who makes the start in the team’s first postseason game since 1992.
“The way it lines up, with no changes, he’d be able to pitch a play-in game [in the event of a tie] or the Wild Card game, which is not a bad option to have, if that’s where you end up going,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said, according to Pirates.com.
If Pittsburgh is unable to clinch the division, it is comforting to know that he will be the one pitching in the single-game elimination Wild Card matchup.