SAN DIEGO: Just like in his first two starts, Francisco Liriano issued too many walks Tuesday night (Wednesday in Manila).
He permitted free bases to a team doing one of the worst jobs of getting on base this season. That team also struggles to hit homers. Tuesday, they beat Liriano with homers.
The full extent of Liriano’s current lack of command became more apparent during the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 5-4 loss to the San Diego Padres at Petco Park Tuesday. Through 151/3 innings in three starts this season, Liriano has walked 14 batters. He has walked at least four in each outing. Of the 284 pitches he has thrown, only 153, or 53.9 percent, were strikes.
The Padres were shut out in five of their first 10 games, including a scoreless three-game series sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers to begin the season. Following that sweep, though, they scored 29 runs in two games at Coors Field against the Colorado Rockies. The team’s .281 on-base percentage and .329 slugging percentage both ranked second to last in the NL entering Tuesday’s game, and they had lost five of their previous six.
Only four teams in the NL — including the Pirates — had fewer home runs than the nine the Padres had hit before this series. Tuesday, they hit three, including two off Liriano (1-1) that turned a 3-0 lead into a 4-3 deficit. Pirates pitchers walked 10 Padres Tuesday night.
Liriano hadn’t started in 10 days. He felt discomfort in his right hamstring during his bullpen session after an April 8 start in Cincinnati, so the Pirates skipped his next outing.
Through 11 innings in his first two starts, Liriano had walked nine batters.
“It’s a matter of getting him in the zone,” Padres manager Andy Green said before the game. “A lot of teams have trouble doing that. … He’s had some command issues this year.”
Liriano walked three of the first eight batters he faced Tuesday night and five in his first three innings. At one point in the third inning he had as many baserunners allowed (seven) as outs recorded. Despite all the traffic, Liriano kept the Padres scoreless until Wil Myers smashed a full-count slider for a two-run homer in the fourth.
Derek Norris hit a two-run homer in the fifth, erasing the Pirates’ lead and sending Liriano from the game. Arquimedes Caminero came in and allowed the next batter, Adam Rosales, to homer off the third level of the warehouse in left field.
The Pirates scored a run in the first, third and fourth innings off Padres starter Colin Rea, but the third was the most entertaining.
Andrew McCutchen singled and went to second when Rea hit David Freese. Starling Marte grounded into a forceout, then stole second, putting men on second and third for Francisco Cervelli.
McCutchen sprinted about a third of the way down the third-base line, then stopped. Rea had already started is delivery; he accelerated it in case McCutchen actually went home. He hopped in the process and his right foot left the rubber. The umpires called a balk and awarded McCutchen home.
But then they convened and decided to overturn the balk call. Manager Clint Hurdle left the dugout to confer with them. He returned to the dugout. Having second thoughts, he came back out, the umpires huddled again and re-instituted the initial balk call. That did it for Green, who came out to argue and got himself ejected.
Four hits in the fourth inning resulted in only one Pirates run after third-base coach Rick Sofield sent Gregory Polanco home on a single to shallow right field. A replay review overturned the call on the field and ruled that Matt Kemp threw Polanco out. The one run scored on Liriano’s RBI single. He has an RBI in each of his three starts.
Singles by Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer started a small eighth-inning rally that resulted in one run, but McCutchen grounded into a double play with men on first and second to end the inning. TNS