Stats & Info: Francisco Liriano

Pirates break out long ball to beat Dodgers

July, 23, 2014
Jul 23

AP PhotoNeil Walker rounds the bases after hitting the first of the Pirates' three home runs on Tuesday.
It had been a long time since the Pirates had hit three home runs in a game. Since Pittsburgh last did this April 17 against the Brewers, every other team in the majors has hit three homers in a game at least once. The Blue Jays have done it 13 times.

Gregory Polanco went 2-for-4 with a home run, three runs and three RBIs. The home run was his first since July 2, a span of 14 games. Over that span Polanco went without an extra-base hit and hit .158 with two RBIs.

During his slump, Polanco struggled in particular with the inside pitch, going just 1-for-18 (.056) in at-bats ending with a pitch on the inner half. Both of his hits on Tuesday came on inside pitches.

Another Pirate to break a homerless drought was Ike Davis, who went deep for the first time since June 9. Over 32 homerless games Davis hit .205 with a .582 OPS.

During his homerless stretch, Davis oddly hit nearly 150 points better on pitches out of the strike zone (.313) than he did on pitches in the zone (.177). Davis' home run on Tuesday came on a fastball in the strike zone.

Neil Walker also homered for the Pirates, though he has not had trouble with the long ball as of late. His 15th homer of the season was his fourth in his last 10 games, and leaves him one shy of his career high.

The three homers all came off Dodgers starter Josh Beckett, who struggled in his return from the disabled list. Beckett, who had allowed just two home runs in his previous six starts combined, lasted a season-low 3 2/3 innings on Tuesday.

Pittsburgh is now 28-17 since the start of June (second-best in the National League) and has closed within 2.5 games of the Brewers in the NL Central. The Pirates have enjoyed playing at PNC Park this season, improving to an NL-best 33-21 at home, including wins in 13 of their last 16 games.

The rubber game of the series comes on Wednesday night as Dan Haren takes on Francisco Liriano. The Pirates will look to continue their power surge against Haren, who has allowed 20 home runs this season, which is tied for second-most in the major leagues.

Top stats to know: Reds at Pirates

April, 21, 2014
Apr 21

AP Photo/Don WrightFrancisco Liriano helped eliminate the Reds last postseason. Will they pay him back tonight?

The Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates meet Monday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Francisco Liriano’s change in approach
Francisco Liriano helped eliminate the Reds last postseason with his slider, throwing it on half of his 90 pitches. His slider netted him 14 outs and yielded only one baserunner in the NL wild-card game.

Since the start of last season, Liriano’s slider has been one of the best in the majors, ranking in the top 10 in most major categories. Although successful against the Reds last season with the pitch, Cincinnati is batting an MLB-best .307 against sliders this season.

The slider isn't the only pitch Liriano has leaned on this season. Liriano has increased the usage of his changeup, throwing it nearly 31 percent of the time, up from 22 percent last season.

Liriano has limited opponents to a .174 batting average while generating a 54 percent swing-and-miss rate this season when throwing the change. Last season opponents hit .273, while swinging and missing 38 percent of the time.

We could see a continuation of that trend tonight. The Reds have hit .192 against changeups this season, 22nd in the majors.

Joey Votto’s lineup change
On April 12, the Reds moved Joey Votto to second in the batting order instead of his usual third. The move has aided Votto in returning to his former MVP self.

The Reds are 4-2 since the tweak to the lineup after going 3-7 with Votto batting third. Votto has hit three of his four home runs when batting second.

Andrew McCutchen not as valuable
Last season Andrew McCutchen became the first Pirates player to win the National League MVP award since Barry Bonds in 1992. So far this season, McCutchen has been unable to replicate last season’s success.

McCutchen’s OPS has dipped to .759 this season, which if it held, would be the lowest of his career. McCutchen’s OPS exceeded .900 in each of the previous two seasons.

Such a big dip in OPS isn’t uncommon for the reigning league MVP. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, 55 players have dropped 100 points in OPS the season after winning the MVP award. Both McCutchen and Miguel Cabrera have seen such dips in the opening weeks this season.

Jay Bruce is a slow starter
Jay Bruce is batting .220 to start this season, but this hasn’t been uncommon in his career.

Bruce’s career batting average in March and April is .249, his second lowest in any month. Last season, Bruce hit .252 with a .651 OPS in April before ripping off a .288 average and .903 OPS from May to July.

NL aces channel their 2013 best

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31
For a number of National League Opening Day starters, the first day of the baseball season was about picking up right where they left off.

That was true for 2013 NL Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez, who dominated the Colorado Rockies for six innings in a Miami Marlins rout. Fernandez tied Josh Beckett’s club record for most strikeouts in an Opening Day start with nine.

The Elias Sports Bureau noted that Fernandez was only the second starting pitcher to have a nine-strikeout, no-walk game on Opening Day in the last 16 seasons.

The full list of pitchers to have that sort of game puts Fernandez in elite company. It is noted in the chart on the right.

Fernandez starred because he had a pitch mix that kept hitters guessing once he got two strikes on them. He threw 35 two-strike pitches, but didn’t throw more than 12 of any pitch type. Fernandez set a tone for how difficult he would be to hit when he struck out Troy Tulowitzki on an 84-mph slider in the top of the first.

Wainwright’s curve still pretty good
Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright hasn’t lost anything from the curveball that made him among the top pitchers in the league last season. Wainwright (with help from a homer by catcher Yadier Molina) beat the Cincinnati Reds, 1-0, marking the first time in Reds history that they lost a season opener, 1-0.

Wainwright threw 22 curveballs and they netted him six outs, yielding no hits and one walk.

Liriano sharp
Some of the Pirates’ magic from 2013 carried over into their season opener with the Cubs, a game they won 1-0 on Neil Walker’s walk-off home run in the 10th inning. It was the second walk-off homer on Opening Day in Pirates history. Bob Bailey had the other against Hall-of-Famer Juan Marichal in 1965.

Elias notes that those mark the only two instances of a player hitting a walk-off homer in a 1-0 Opening Day win.

The Pirates got another great effort from Francisco Liriano, who struck out 10 in six scoreless innings. Liriano got misses on 45 percent of the swings against him. Ten of them came against his slider, resulting in seven strikeouts.

Martin's power leads Pirates to NLDS

October, 2, 2013
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarRussell Martin (right) homered twice for the Pirates in their win against the Reds.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have won a postseason game for the first time since October 13, 1992.

Marlon Byrd, Francisco Liriano and Andrew McCutchen all played significant roles in the victory, but it was Russell Martin who especially shined for the Pirates.

Key to the game: Russell's muscle
Martin had only one multihomer game in the regular season, but he put two pitches into the bleachers in Tuesday's win.

Martin became the second Pirates player to hit two homers in a postseason game, joining Bob Robertson, who hit three against the San Francisco Giants in Game 2 of the 1971 NLCS.

Martin's nine total bases are tied with Willie Stargell for the second-most in a postseason game in team history. Stargell had nine in one of the most famous postseason wins in team history, Game 7 of the 1979 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles.

Martin is the second player to hit multiple home runs in a postseason game in Pittsburgh. The other? Mickey Mantle in Game 2 of the 1960 World Series for the New York Yankees.

Martin is the seventh player (first since Johnny Damon for the 2004 Boston Red Sox) and second catcher (first since Yogi Berra in the 1956 World Series) with two homers in a winner-take-all postseason game.

He is also the first catcher to homer in postseason play for three different teams, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He'd previously done so for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Yankees.

Martin's first homer came on a 95 mph fastball. During the regular season, he tied Starling Marte for the team lead in home runs on pitches thrown at least that fast. The Reds knew firsthand that Martin could turn around that kind of pitch. He'd done so 10 days ago, hitting a 95 mph fastball from Homer Bailey for a game-tying homer in an eventual 4-2 Pirates win.

Matchup of the game: Liriano versus Joey Votto
The first two hitters in the Reds lineup -- Shin-Soo Choo and Ryan Ludwick -- were 4-for-7 combined. The rest of the Reds went a combined 2-for-25.

Liriano took advantage of Votto's late-season struggles hitting left-handed pitching, striking him out twice. Votto was 4-for-31 against lefties to close the season (though he did draw 11 walks).

The strikeouts both came on sliders down and away that Votto flailed at and missed.

Liriano threw 45 sliders among his 90 pitches, the highest rate of use for that pitch that he's had in any start this season. The pitch netted him 14 outs and yielded only one baserunner.

What's next?
The Pirates will meet the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS. It will be the first time the Pirates and Cardinals meet in the postseason.

Pittsburgh will be looking to win a postseason series for the first time since 1979, when it won the World Series by defeating the Orioles in seven games.

Did you know?
This is the second time the Pirates have hit at least three homers in a postseason home game.

The other was in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series against the Yankees, when they won on Bill Mazeroski's walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth.

Top things to know: NL Wild Card

October, 1, 2013

AP PhotosJohnny Cueto and Francisco Liriano will start for the Reds and Pirates in tonight's NL Wild Card game.
For the first time since October 1992, the Pittsburgh Pirates will play a postseason game.

Tonight’s game against the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Wild Card Game is the first home playoff game for the Pirates since Bob Walk pitched a complete-game three-hitter Oct. 11, 1992, in Pittsburgh’s 7-1 win against the Atlanta Braves in Game 5 of the NLCS.

Here are a few storylines for tonight’s game.

1. The Pirates won the season series against the Reds 11-8, including a season-ending sweep this past weekend in Cincinnati.

This is the first meeting between these teams in the postseason since the 1990 NLCS, which the Reds won 4-2. The Reds have won 13 of 20 meetings against the Pirates in the postseason.

2. Johnny Cueto will take the mound for the Reds tonight. He’s 13-4 with a 2.37 ERA in 21 career starts against the Pirates, including 7-2 with a 1.43 ERA in his last 12 starts against Pittsburgh.

In his last start vs. the Bucs on May 31, Cueto threw eight shutout innings, allowing one hit and striking out six in the win.

3. Francisco Liriano will make the start for Pittsburgh in a park where he has excelled this season. Liriano is 8-1 with a 1.47 ERA in 11 starts at PNC Park this season compared to an 8-7 record with a 4.33 ERA in 15 road starts.

Against the Reds, he’s 0-3 with a 3.70 ERA in four starts this season. Pittsburgh lost all four of those games.

Liriano is a three-pitch pitcher who throws a fastball, slider and changeup. One of his downfalls against the Reds this season has been the ineffectiveness of his changeup. Overall, opponents are hitting .273 against that pitch, but the Reds are hitting .353.

4. Marlon Byrd and Andrew McCutchen have had a lot of success against Cueto during their careers. Byrd is hitting .583 (7-of-12) with a home run and three RBI. Three of McCutchen’s nine career hits against Cueto are home runs.

On the other side, Shin-Soo Choo, Jay Bruce and Joey Votto are a combined .154 (8-of-52) in their careers against Liriano.

5. Pittsburgh has not won a World Series title since the “We are Family” team in 1979. The 34-year drought is the third longest active streak in baseball (among franchises that have won at least once).

The 105-year drought for the Chicago Cubs and 65-year drought for the Cleveland Indians are the only longer active streaks.

Cards can't touch Liriano's slider ... again

August, 30, 2013

The Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals are now even in the NL Central race and the equalizer in that matchup has been Pirates starter Francisco Liriano.

Liriano is 3-0 with an 0.75 ERA and 0.63 WHIP in three starts against the Cardinals this season. He set a career-high by winning his 15th game against them Friday night, with eight scoreless, two-hit innings. He is the first Pirates lefty to win at least 15 games in a season since Zane Smith and John Smiley did so in 1991.

Liriano has held the Cardinals to a .127 batting average, matching their lowest batting average against any pitcher with three starts against them in a season since divisional play began in 1969 (they also hit .127 against Hideo Nomo in 1995)

Remember this past offseason when Liriano was unwanted by most. He’s proven to be one of the smartest investments of the winter. Let’s take a closer look at how he’s fared.

How He Beat the Cardinals
Liriano had his dominant slider working on Friday, just as he did against the Cardinals a month ago. The Cardinals were 0-for-9 in at-bats ending with that pitch, including four strikeouts. Seven of those nine outs came with two strikes. The Cardinals were hitless in 11 two-strike at-bats against him.

Liriano did his best to keep the ball away from Cardinals hitters. They were 1-for-13 in at-bats that ended with a pitch on the outer-third of the plate or off the outside corner.

He’s thrown 102 sliders in the three starts against the Cardinals, netting 32 outs and yielding only four hits and one walk.

They’ve been equally feeble against his changeup, with one hit and 21 outs against that pitch this season.

Liriano has had lots of success with his changeup in the past, but this has been his best year with his slider, a pitch he’s throwing at about 87 mph, up a mile per hour from last season.

Most notably, he’s only given up seven extra-base hits (two homers) on the 728 he’s thrown this season.

In 2012, he allowed 15 extra-base hits (including six homers) with his slider, a rate of one about every 59 thrown.

Want to know how good Liriano’s slider was? The Cardinals had four hitters in their lineup with a .300 or better batting average. They made seven outs against the 15 sliders Liriano threw them.

Home sweet Home

Liriano has been ridiculously good at home this season. He’s 8-1 with a 1.21 ERA at PNC Park, with wins in his last six starts there.

The 1.21 ERA is the best of anyone who has thrown at least 50 innings in his home ballpark this season.

Liriano has allowed two earned runs in 35 innings in his last five starts at home.

Looking Ahead
The Cardinals can consider themselves fortunate that they should miss Liriano when these teams meet again in St. Louis next week. He thus won’t have a chance to become the first starting pitcher to beat the Cardinals four times in a season since Greg Maddux in 1992.

Instead, he’ll face the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday. Liriano is 3-0 in his last four starts against the Brewers, including 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in two starts against them this season.

5 stats to know: Pirates at Cardinals

August, 14, 2013

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Andrew McCutchen struggled down the stretch last season, but has been red hot this August.

The St. Louis Cardinals have won two in a row after enduring a tough stretch over which the team lost 13 of 17 games. They’re now two games back of the Pittsburgh Pirates for first place in the NL Central as they host the Bucs Wednesday in Game two of their three-game series (8 ET on ESPN/WatchESPN).

Here are five stats to know going into tonight’s action at Busch Stadium.

1. Shelby Miller takes the mound for the Cardinals coming off a start in which he threw just two pitches and left after being hit in the elbow by a Carl Crawford line drive. Although he has struggled as of late - going 4-4 with a 4.50 ERA in his last 10 starts - his fastball remains a force to be reckoned with.

Miller throws his fastball 74 percent of the time; the second-highest fastball usage among MLB starters behind Bartolo Colon (85 percent).Only teammate Lance Lynn has more strikeouts with his fastball (105) than Miller this season (102).

2. Whereas Miller is a fastball pitcher, Francisco Liriano uses his slider as often as any pitcher in baseball. As a lefty, he throws more sliders to righties than any other pitcher (min 10 starts). Among left-handed pitchers, only Chris Sale throws his slider more often against lefty batters.

Opponents are hitting just .144 against Liriano’s slider this season. That’s the fourth-lowest average among pitchers with at least 150 plate appearances ending with the pitch.

3. The Cardinals lead the league by a wide margin in batting average with runners in scoring position, batting .334. They have five of the top 10 hitters with RISP this season.

How are they performing so much better with runners in scoring position?

One way is by cutting down strikeouts. The team has struck out in 19 percent of plate appearances with the bases empty, the 10th-lowest rate in MLB. But with RISP, the team has struck out in only 16 percent of plate appearances, the lowest rate in baseball.

4. After slumping down the stretch last year, Andrew McCutchen is doing the exact opposite this year. He’s batting .471 in August, second in MLB behind Jayson Werth (.531) and has multiple hits in seven of his last 10 games.

While McCutchen has reversed his late-season trend from last year, overall, he is still better in his home park. McCutchen is hitting .362 at home this season, third-best in the majors, but just .263 on the road, 84th in MLB.

5. Starling Marte has provided a boost at the top of the order for the Pirates this season. Last year, the Pirates’ .291 OBP out of the leadoff spot was the fourth-worst in the majors. This year, Pirates leadoff hitters have a .334 OBP and Starling Marte’s 75 runs out of the top spot are second-most in the majors.

Cardinals can't touch Liriano's slider

July, 30, 2013
ESPN Stats & InformationFrancisco Liriano’s slider was tough to hit for Cardinals righties on Monday.
Francisco Liriano has proven to be an ace for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Francisco Liriano
Liriano is the first Pirates pitcher to win 11 of his first 15 starts of a season since Dock Ellis in 1971, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Liriano is the fourth pitcher in MLB history to win at least three games in each of his first three months of a season, have a 2.35 ERA in the first month and then improve his ERA in each of the next two months. According to Elias, the only other pitchers ever to accomplish that feat are Gaylord Perry in 1974 for the Indians, Sandy Koufax in 1966 for the Dodgers, and Hippo Vaughn in 1917 for the Cubs.

How did Liriano shut down the Cardinals?

• For his second straight start, Liriano did not allow a hit when the count got to two strikes (0-for-12 on Monday, 0-for-26 in last two starts).

• Liriano has had continued success with his slider. The Cardinals were 2-for-13 with six strikeouts against Liriano’s slider, chasing 52 percent of sliders out of the zone (second-highest rate for Liriano this season).

• Liriano has allowed a .118 batting average against his slider, which ranks fourth in the majors (min. 15 starts). Since May 11 (Liriano’s season debut), his 73 strikeouts via the slider lead the majors.

• Liriano stayed down and away to Cardinals right-handed batters. As a result, they were 3-for-21 with seven strikeouts. Against his slider, they were 1-for-10 with five strikeouts.

Liriano got some help from Pedro Alvarez, who hit his 27th home run of the season, giving him solo possession of the National League lead.

The last Pirate to lead the NL in homers was Willie Stargell, who hit 44 in 1973.

Liriano, Balfour can make an All-Star case

July, 6, 2013
Francisco Liriano may not be quite good enough to start the All-Star Game, but he’s had a heck of a good first season for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

And Grant Balfour might not be the AL’s All-Star closer, but he’s a strong candidate to hear his name called when rosters are announced on Saturday.

Each did something of prominence on Friday. Let’s review.

Liriano’s Gem
Liriano's slider was a major key to his second career complete game, the first since his no-hitter in 2011.

He threw 51 of them in Friday’s win over the Cubs, his most in any start in the last five seasons.

Liriano got 12 swings-and-misses with the pitch, which accounted for five of his seven strikeouts. His 52 strikeouts with his slider this season are third-most in the National League.

Liriano has found the Cubs to his liking. He’s 3-0 with an 0.78 ERA in three starts against them this season.

The win dipped his ERA for the season to 2.20, and though he’s only made 11 starts after missing the first month of the season due to injury, he’s made a legit case to be an All-Star.

Liriano hasn’t quite pitched to the level of a pitcher like Clayton Kershaw, but he’s been only a notch below in a number of areas, as you can see in the chart on the right.

Should Liriano or his teammate Jeff Locke make the team and pitch in the game, they’d be the first Pirates starting pitcher to pitch in an All-Star Game since Denny Neagle in 1995.

Balfour’s finish
It was a two-out save, certainly an easier one than most, but nonetheless a significant one from the perspective of those who close games.

Grant Balfour
Balfour tied Dennis Eckersley’s franchise record with his 40th straight save conversion in the Oakland Athletics’ 6-3 win over the Kansas City Royals.

He’s 22-for-22 in save chances this season and in a year in which Jim Johnson and Fernando Rodney have had their struggles, Balfour can make a decent case for being in the upper tier of AL closers with Mariano Rivera and Joe Nathan.

Balfour isn’t as perfect as his saves mark would indicate. He issues walks (3.4 per 9 innings) and allows home runs (four in 34 2/3 innings) at rates that are a little high.

But he’s been the master of getting out of trouble. Opponents are 7-for-55 against him with men on base.

Balfour’s money pitch this season has been his breaking ball. He’s allowed only three hits and one walk while netting 39 outs with those pitches, including the two that closed Friday’s game.

Opponents have missed on nearly 46 percent of their swings against the pitches judged to be his curves and sliders. That’s the third-highest rate among AL relievers trailing only Al Alburquerque and Brett Cecil.

How the Indians are creeping up on Tigers

July, 5, 2013

US PresswireJason Kipnis and the Indians have been the AL's best team the last few weeks
The Cleveland Indians host the Detroit Tigers on Friday in the opener of a four-game series at Progressive Field. Earlier this week, the Indians took over sole possession of first place in the AL Central for the first time since early May. But thanks to three straight Tigers wins and back-to-back losses by the Tribe, Detroit comes in with a 1.5-game lead in the division.

Of course, it’s still just a fraction of the 5.5-game lead Tigers held on June 11. How have the Indians been able to go an AL-best 15-7 since that day and close the gap in the Central?

The Indians have scored nearly 41 percent of their runs with two outs this season. Their 169 runs scored with two outs are the most in the American League and second-most league wide (Cardinals - 174). The Tribe leads MLB in two-out slugging percentage (.433) and ranks second in two-out OPS (.767).

Offseason additions like Michael Bourn and Drew Stubbs were meant to improve overall team speed, and it’s paid off. The Indians’ 64 stolen bases are tied for fourth in MLB and no team has more than their 20 stolen bases since June 11. It’s a dramatic improvement for a team that ranked 12th in stolen bases in 2012. Cleveland baserunners have also gone first to third or scored on a single 61 times this season, most in MLB.

The Indians are 18-8 (.750) in one-run games (best in baseball), and are the only team that has yet to lose an extra-inning game (5-0). Meanwhile, the Tigers are just 9-12 in one-run games and have gone 2-9 in extra innings, the most extra-inning losses in baseball.

Justin Masterson has been one of Cleveland’s best starters during its run and he gets the ball on Friday. In four starts since June 11, Masterson is 2-1 with a 2.83 ERA and the Indians have won three of those four games. In his last start, Masterson shut out the White Sox with eight strikeouts and just one walk. It was his major-league best third shutout of the season

Masterson, primarily a sinker-baller, has thrown 28 percent sliders this season after doing so just 19 percent of the time in 2012. His .091 opponents’ batting average against his slider is the lowest among qualified starting pitchers. He’ll be tested on Friday, however, as Detroit has the highest OPS (.783) and the most home runs (21) against sliders this season.

Jason Kipnis
After hitting .189 through May 1, Jason Kipnis has hit .340 since (sixth in MLB over span) including an AL-best .419 during the month of June. His efforts earned him player of the month honors, the first Indian to win the award since Shin-Soo Choo in September of 2008. He’s riding a career-long 15-game hitting streak and has reached base safely in 35 straight games. It’s the longest on-base streak by a member of the Indians since Victor Martinez reached in 45 straight during a stretch spanning the 2005 and 2006 seasons.
Justin Verlander
For the second time this week it appeared we would have a pitcher to throw two no-hitters in a regular season for the first time since 1973 when Nolan Ryan did so. But like Francisco Liriano on Sunday, Justin Verlander's bid at a second no-hitter ended in the eighth inning.

However Verlander finished the game notching a two-hit shutout, his third complete game of the season. More importantly he put the Detroit Tigers back in sole possession of first place in the AL Central for the first time since July 10 of last season.

While he did not complete the second no-hitter, by some measures Verlander did complete a better performance.

Game Score, a metric developed by Bill James, measures a pitcher's single-game performance based on innings pitched, runs, hits, strikeouts and walks.The average score is around 50 and most games are between 0-100.

According to this metric, Verlander scored a 94 with his performance on Tuesday. In his no-hitter earlier this season his Game Score was a 90. In fact, the 94 was the highest recorded Game Score this season.

Verlander struck out 12 batters, his 14th game with double-digit strikeouts in the last three seasons. That is tied with Jon Lester for most in the American League during that span and trails only Tim Lincecum (18) for most in all of baseball.
The Cleveland Indians missed at 24 of his pitches, the second straight start Verlander has generated that many swings-and-misses. Only two other pitchers have gotten 24 or more misses in a start this season.

With this performance Verlander passed Roy Halladay for the lead in overall swing-and-misses in 2011. Those two are at 205 and 201, respectively, more than 20 ahead of anyone else.

Not to be outdone, James Shields threw his major-league leading third shutout of the season as the Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Boston Red Sox to snap their nine-game win streak.

James Shields
According to Elias, Shields is the first pitcher to throw a shutout to end a win streak of at least nine games by the opposing team since Rodrigo Lopez shut out the Oakland Athletics to end their 10-game win streak on September 3, 2003.

The last pitcher to shut out the Red Sox to end a win streak of at least nine games was Jim Abbott on August 30, 1989.

This marked Shield's second career shutout against the Red Sox. He accounts for half of the franchises career shutouts pitched against Boston. Scott Kazmir in 2006 and Steve Trachsel in 2000 each had one.

Shields' changeup continues to be his out pitch. Red Sox hitters were 0-10 with four strikeouts in at-bats ending with it. He now has 53 strikeouts with his changeup this season, seven more than any other pitcher in baseball.

Francisco Liriano's no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox was the 248th in major league history and 246th in the regular season. Liriano walked six and struck out two, becoming just the second pitcher since 1900 to have four more walks than strikeouts in a no-hitter according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Pittsburgh’s Cliff Chambers walked eight and struck out four when he no-hit the Braves in 1951.

Francisco Liriano’s no-hitter last night is a great example of a statistical oddity in baseball. Looking inside the numbers at the no-hitter, Liriano did not do much differently than in his previous 5 starts that yielded a 9.13 ERA. In fact in some cases, his numbers were worse.

His miss pct on his “out pitches” (changeup and slider) were actually worse than his season total

On top of that, Liriano's no-no wasn't all that special. Last year, Edwin Jackson, Liriano's opponent on the mound Tuesday, threw a no-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays also in a 1-0 game. In fact, the strike percentage, called strikes and three-ball counts from both of those games were nearly identical.

Although it's the first no-hitter of this season, Liriano's was the seventh this decade. From 2000-2009, there were a total of 15 no-hitters.

Here's more on how Liriano was able to no-hit the White Sox:

• He adjusted to the White Sox as the game went on. Chicago swung at just 34.1 percent of Liriano's pitches, the lowest percentage against the Twins' left-hander over the last three seasons. From innings 1-3, Liriano threw just 38.7 percent of his pitches in the strike zone. That number increased to 43.6 in innings 4-6 and 48.6 in innings 7-9.

• The White Sox did not hit the ball out of the infield in the last four innings, as Liriano threw 59.6 percent of his pitches down in that span, compared to 46.5 in the first five innings.

• Twenty-one of Liriano's 26 changeups were low. He got five outs with his changeup in the last four innings (including a double play), and none left the infield.

• Liriano had six innings of 12 pitches or less. It's even more impressive considering that he threw first-pitch balls to 19 of the 30 White Sox hitters he faced.

While Liriano got the no-no, one could argue that he wasn't even the best pitcher in U.S. Cellular Field Tuesday. Jackson and reliever Matt Thornton outpitched Liriano in several categories.

Finally, Liriano was just the second active starting pitcher to throw a no-hitter after previously undergoing Tommy John surgery joining Anibal Sanchez of the Marlins.
Francisco Liriano
Francisco Liriano became the seventh pitcher in Minnesota Twins franchise history (dating to their days as the Washington Senators) to throw a no-hitter. It was the first Twins no-hitter since Eric Milton threw one against the then-Anaheim Angels in September 1999.

It's especially incredible when you consider that in his previous 94 starts, Liriano had never thrown a complete game.

The Elias Sports Bureau went one deeper, finding Liriano's longest no-hit bid prior to Tuesday was 5⅓ innings on May 31, 2006.

Liriano hadn't exactly gotten off to the best start this season. In fact, his 9.13 ERA entering a no-hitter is the second-highest by a pitcher since earned runs became official in 1913. Bill Dietrich had a 10.13 ERA before throwing his no-hitter in 1937.

Most of Liriano's starts this season actually began with a hit. In three of his four starts entering Tuesday, Liriano allowed a hit to the first batter he faced.

On Tuesday, he wasn't overpowering anyone -- his two strikeouts were tied for the third-fewest in a no-hitter since divisional play began in 1969. Jerry Reuss (two strikeouts) of the Los Angeles Dodgers was the last pitcher to throw a no-hitter while striking out two or fewer.

In the past 20 seasons, there have been five 1-0 no-hitters, including Liriano's on Tuesday. The previous pitcher to throw a no-hitter in a 1-0 win was none other than Liriano's opposing pitcher Tuesday, Edwin Jackson, who pitched his no-hitter in a 1-0 win last season against the Tampa Bay Rays.

According to Elias, 2007 was the last time a pitcher threw a no-hitter against a pitcher who previously threw a no-hitter. In 2007, Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle threw the first of his two no-hitters against the Texas Rangers. Buehrle was pitching opposite Kevin Millwood that day, also an owner of a no-hitter.

As far as the White Sox go, their streak of 18 seasons without allowing a no-hitter came to an end. They had owned the third-longest streak entering Tuesday, having not been no-hit since Bret Saberhagen completed the feat back in August 1991 for the Kansas City Royals.

No-hitters like Tuesday's are particularly rare for White Sox fans to witness. The last time the White Sox were on the losing end of the 1-0 no-hitter was on May 5, 1917 thanks to the St. Louis Browns’ Ernie Koob.
A pair of left-handers are on the hill in Game 1 of the ALDS between the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins, CC Sabathia and Francisco Liriano.

Liriano SabathiaThe Yankees won four of Sabathia’s five 2009 postseason starts. There didn’t appear to be any added pressure pitching for the Yankees as Sabathia had a 1.98 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP. In his five previous postseason starts with the Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Brewers, he was just 2-3 with a 7.92 ERA and a 2.20 WHIP.

Among pitchers who made at least 30 starts this season, Liriano allowed the fewest home runs (nine HR in 31 starts). He made two starts this season against New York and did not allow a home run in 13 innings.

Liriano has pitched well against the Yankees the last two seasons (3.33 ERA); however, he’s made four starts against them since the start of 2009, and the Twins have lost all four games.

The Yankees struggled down the stretch against left-handed starters. They finished the regular season losing each of their last nine games when the opposing starting pitcher was left-handed. Those nine starters were a combined 7-0 with a 3.13 ERA and allowed just four HR in 54⅔ innings.

Rays sweep reeling Rangers

August, 18, 2010
The good news is the Texas Rangers have a comfortable lead in the American League West (eight games over the Athletics and Angels). However, after getting swept by the Tampa Bay Rays, Texas clearly has some work to do with the postseason on the horizon.

• Against the division-leading Twins, Yankees and Rays (New York and Tampa Bay are tied atop the AL East), the Rangers are a combined 3-11.

• The Rays were the fifth team to sweep the Rangers this season, and the fourth from the AL East. (The Boston Red Sox are the only team in that division that hasn’t swept Texas.)

• How much do the Rangers miss second baseman Ian Kinsler? They were 59-41 before he went on the disabled list with a groin injury. In the 19 games the Rangers have played without Kinsler, they're just 8-11.

• Except for the month of June when they went 21-6, the Rangers have been a .500 club (46-46), including 6-9 in August.

• The New York Yankees are 7-1 this season when Brett Gardner is the lead-off hitter, outscoring their opponents 42-19. Gardner is 12-for-31 (.387 BA) with eight runs scored and three walks in those games. He's also started six of those eight games by getting on base in the 1st inning (Jeremy Bonderman hit Gardner with a pitch in the first inning on Wednesday). The Yankees have scored in the first inning in five of those eight games, totaling 11 runs.

• Holding onto a 3-2 lead against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Milwaukee Brewers' Trevor Hoffman was brought in with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Hoffman proceeded to strike out Brendan Ryan on three pitches. According to, batters are now 0-8 against Hoffman in situations where he’s pitching in a game with a 1-run lead and the bases loaded in the 9th inning or later.

• Despite blowing a three-run lead in the top of the ninth inning, the A’s came back in the bottom of the inning to win 5-4. Oakland is now 51-0 this season when leading after eight innings. Only the Yankees have more wins without a loss (64-0) when leading after eight.

• The Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera has now hit at least 30 home runs in six of his first eight seasons. The only players who have had more 30-HR seasons in their first eight years in the bigs: Albert Pujols (8), Eddie Mathews (7) and Ralph Kiner (7).

• The Red Sox's Jonathan Papelbon became the first pitcher (since saves became an official stat in 1969) to record at least 30 saves in each of his first five full seasons. Papelbon also struck out the side in the ninth, just the third time in his career he's had a three-out save and struck out all three batters he faced.

• The Minnesota Twins' Francisco Liriano had pitched 78⅓ innings at Target Field this season without allowing a home run before the Chicago White Sox's Andruw Jones hit a three-run shot in the second inning. And while Liriano gave up his first HR at home, Joe Mauer went deep at Target Field for the first time this season (49 games).

• The Philadelphia Phillies' Jimmy Rollins was the first player since Nomar Garciaparra in 1997 to have a triple, home run and two stolen bases in a game. Also in that game, Jayson Werth had been hitless in his last 35 at-bats with two outs and runners in scoring position before his seventh-inning double scored Raul Ibanez from third.

• The Atlanta Braves are tied for the major league lead with 10 walk-off wins, and rookie Jason Heyward has accounted for three of them following his RBI single in the ninth inning against the Washington Nationals.