Monday, June 13, 2011

Better than great

A good day's work, Frankie;
take the ninth inning off.
It was like 2006 all over again.

During that magical summer, I frequently pondered on my afternoon walk to work how I would handle the story if Johan Santana or Francisco Liriano did something historic in that day's game. No hitter? Twenty strikeouts? Anything seemed possible enough that a little game-planning in advance didn't seem like idle fantasy.

Sunday I watched Liriano for five innings at home, then walked to work thinking about how to play it — what should be the headline for a perfect game?

He didn't get the perfect game, of course, didn't get the no-hitter, didn't get the shutout, didn't even finish the game.

No matter. Francisco Liriano had a no-hitter earlier this season, and that was just luck. He didn't, in truth, pitch any better than he had been, and he had been awful. He entered that game with an ERA of 9.13, and after his next start was at 7.07. He was no cinch to remain in the rotation.

He's had four starts since. Four starts, 26 innings, four earned runs (ERA 1.38), eight walks, 29 strikeouts.

That's 2006 all over again.

Sunday wasn't. Even in 2006, we never saw Liriano with such control, such command, of everything. He's always been hit-or-miss with the fastball, always leaned on the slider to get him out of trouble when he fell behind in the count with the fastball. On Sunday, he threw strikes at a 2-1 ratio (97 pitches, 64 strikes, 33 balls).

2006 all over again?  No. For this one game, he was better.

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