October remains fresh in Francisco Liriano’s mind. He has quick recall of his postseason start against the St. Louis Cardinals.
“I feel like I faced them two weeks ago,” he said, with a laugh Friday, one day before he was to take mound against them at 7:05 p.m. today.
“They have a pretty good lineup. I’m just going to go out and try to do the same thing I’ve been doing, just hit my spot, let the guys make some plays for me and try to go deep in the game.”
In three starts against the Cardinals in 2013, Liriano went 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA. He struck out 20 and walked five in 24 innings. The matchup is tailor-made for his success. The Cardinals ranked 26th in the majors in 2013 with a .672 on-base-plus-slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers.
Liriano started only once in the five-game National League Division Series against St. Louis because he started the wild-card game against the Cincinnati Reds. He held the Cardinals to two runs in six innings in a Game 3 victory.
The Cardinals filled their hole at shortstop this winter by signing Jhonny Peralta, a right-handed batter who should help them improve against left-handers. Liriano faced Peralta often when they played in the American League Central Division, Liriano for the Minnesota Twins and Peralta for the Detroit Tigers.
“He’s a good hitter. He’s a great hitter,” Liriano said. “He can hit for power, for average, too. You got to make sure you don’t make a mistake against him because he can go deep on you.”
Liriano said he felt no pain or tightness in his left groin after his opening-day start after experiencing some late in spring training.
First base update
Travis Ishikawa started at first base Friday night for the fourth consecutive game.
Manager Clint Hurdle has said at least several times that the breakdown of playing time between left-handed Ishikawa and right-handed Gaby Sanchez will not be split solely in response to from which side a pitcher throws. The Pirates have faced four right-handers to start the season and will see two more today and Sunday.
“There is a little bit of a common factor, that we’re looking to give [Sanchez] the best chance to have some success early on, absolutely,” Hurdle said. “And what I’m seeing right now is I wanted to get Ishikawa involved in the lineup based on how he had swung the bat in spring training to see if we could continue with some traction along those lines.”
Hurdle said Sanchez might start Sunday against Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright.
About the Cardinals
Hurdle spoke highly of the Pirates’ competition against the Cardinals in 2013, in the regular season and playoffs.
“This has turned into a nice rivalry, a very competitive rivalry with professional respect on both sides,” he said.
The Pirates won the 2013 regular-season series, 10-9, but lost the NLDS, 3-2. The Cardinals then defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS before losing the World Series against the Boston Red Sox.
“Two good teams that like playing each other and respect each other,” he said. “They have set the bar very high, organizationally speaking, within our industry from a pitching standpoint, from a consistent offensive standpoint.”
Bill Brink: email@example.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG.