After another poor start Sunday afternoon, a visibly-frustrated Francisco Liriano had a difficult time explaining the cause of his recent struggles.
"I don't know," Liriano said multiple times. "I just don't feel like I'm doing my job."
Since being removed from the game in St. Louis on April 26 due to nosebleeds and lightheadedness, Liriano has averaged less than five innings per start and a 6.57 ERA. For the season, his ERA/FIP/xFIP slashline is 5.06/4.17/3.52.
"It's hard, it's hard, no one said it was going to be easy. I just need to keep fighting through it," Liriano said. "I've got to keep working hard and get ready for my next start."
Clint Hurdle said that Liriano has struggled with his rhythm when men get on base.
"He's trying to find a way to slow it down and make the next good pitch," Hurdle said. "That hasn't happened with enough consistency at this point."
There has been no discussion of having Liriano miss an upcoming start to regroup.
"I'm here to tell you, we're not going to move Liriano ... As long as he is healthy, we are going to continue to give him the ball," Hurdle said Wednesday.
The Josh Harrison Homestand comes to a close
Although the homestand ended with a disappointing 5-2 loss, it was a successful six-game stretch for the Pirates. The starting pitching finally chipped in, putting together three consecutive quality starts against the Nationals. But the story of the homestand was Josh Harrison, who played a pivotal role in each of the Pirates four wins.
- Wednesday, 9-8 win against Baltimore: Harrison got on base and scored twice. He also threw out J.J. Hardy at the plate in the seventh inning, which kept the game tied at that point.
- Thursday, 3-1 win against Washington: Harrison made a spectacular diving catch in right field that both Edinson Volquez and Andrew McCutchen said was one of the best that they had ever seen. He also went 2-for-4 with a walk and run scored.
- Friday, 4-3 win against Washington: Harrison made a leaping, game-saving catch against the Clemente Wall to preserve the victory. Hurdle said after the game that they had a "right fielder just tall enough to make the catch and to win the game."
- Saturday, 3-2 win against Washington: Harrison hit the game-winning single in the bottom of the seventh against Stephen Strasburg. Nationals manager, Matt Williams, intentionally walked Travis Snider to pitch to him.
Sunday afternoon, Neal Huntington said that Harrison's recent play "is making us feel like we under-evaluated him a little."
"It would be fun to see him do this over an extended period of time," Huntington said. "He has had stretches in the past where he has been great and now we need to work hard to help him continue this."
Huntington also ruled out moving Harrison to shortstop and giving him regular reps. He said that they value defense at the position and Jordy Mercer and Clint Barmes have done a good job in that regard.
Pirates emphasize discipline, not patience, with hitters
In Wednesday's pregame post, we looked at Pirates hitters who were showing career-high patience at the plate (increased walk percentage), but slugging at career lows.
In that article, I made the point that the Pirates emphasize a patient approach to their hitters, and I speculated that perhaps there might be a relationship between that approach and the drop in power numbers.
On Sunday, Huntington said that "there is a little bit of a misrepresentation" in the way the issue is framed. "We don't emphasize patience, we emphasize commanding your zone."
"The challenge is, we don't want guys to attack pitcher's pitches in zero-strike and one-strike counts," Huntington continued. "We want our guys to attack their pitches and understand what their strikes are, what their zone is, and when they get a pitch in that zone, attack it."
Increasing walks is not the the goal of the approach that the Pirates are emphasizing with their hitters. Rather, walks are a byproduct of a "disciplined approach."
"So, we're not sacrificing power, we want our guys to be good hitters with power versus power hitters that may get a few singles," Huntington said. "It's not a passive approach, it's an aggressive approach, but it's a disciplined approach."