It is late and I am tired, so let’s keep this to the point: Josh Harrison and Travis Snider both kept up their recent hot streaks with early home runs, and Francisco Liriano just absolutely dominated the Giants tonight after a little bit of a slow start. He struck out 11 Giants in his seven innings of work, with all 11 strikeouts coming after a first inning double, three hard-hit outs in the first inning and a Michael Morse homer to lead off the second. He generated 21 swinging strikes tonight, which is just a crazy number of swinging strikes. He got 11 whiffs on his changeup and nine whiffs on his slider, which means that of the 65 off-speed pitches he threw, the Giants swung and missed at 20 of them, which, again, more or less defies belief. His fastball velocity was fine, his slider velocity was probably a touch lower than what had previously been established as “where it needs to be,” but his changeup was about as nasty as it’s ever looked tonight, and so the three pitches made him almost untouchable.
Caveats about the current Giants’ lineup apply, of course, but geez, after coming off of the disabled list with two mixed-bag starts and a third mostly encouraging one, it’s really hard to find anything to even nit-pick with this outing tonight. If Francisco Liriano’s August and September look like these two starts he’s made against the Giants and Dodgers, the Pirates’ rotation is going to be a lot better down the stretch.
With the win over the Giants and the Cardinals’ loss to the Padres, the Pirates have maneuvered themselves into the National League’s second wild card spot. With the Brewers’ loss to the Rays, the Pirates are only one game back in the National League Central. July started with the Pirates eight games out of first place in the Central. It is now conceivable that it could end with them in first place.