Tim Benz: Francisco Liriano latest issue for Pirates pitching staff | TribLIVE.com
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Tim Benz: Francisco Liriano latest issue for Pirates pitching staff

Tim Benz
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ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 12: Francisco Liriano #47 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on May 12, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Pirates defeated the Cardinals 10-6. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas /Getty Images)

The Pirates don’t need this.

It appears Francisco Liriano may be turning into their latest problem, after having previously been one of their most reliable performers.

Liriano allowed a two-run homer to Mike Moustakas in the eighth inning Sunday.

That bomb broke a 2-2 tie and pushed the Brewers to a 5-2 win. In his one inning of work, Liriano allowed three hits, failed to record an out and gave up three earned runs, including that homer. The veteran lefty absorbed the loss, his first of the year. Milwaukee’s Manny Pina also homered off Liriano on Saturday. Liriano has served up three homers since June 1. He allowed just one before the end of May.

In his five appearances in June, Liriano’s ERA is 10.38 (five earned runs in 4 1/3 innings). His WHIP is 1.85, his batting average against is .350 and he blew his only save opportunity.

Just a few weeks ago, the opinion of many Pirates fans was that Liriano should be used more often, for longer stretches and maybe even as an “opener” for the team.

Neal Huntington and Clint Hurdle cautioned against those ideas, claiming that Liriano had been pitching too well to tinker with and that stretching him out may expose him.

Turns out they may have been right.

Regardless, the Pirates can’t afford a prolonged slump from Liriano. The bullpen ERA is 5.39, third-worst in baseball. It’d be far worse if it weren’t for Liriano pitching as well as he did the first two months of the year. Through May 31, he was 1-0 with a 1.03 ERA.

If he starts struggling as badly as the rest of the crew, no Pirates lead will be safe.

Come to think of it, that may be true already.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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