Francisco Liriano and the near no-hitter


The resurgent Francisco Liriano pitched five hitless innings and combined with four relievers on a one-hit shutout of the Pirates on Sunday.

The Pirates got their only hit when Brandon Boggs singled off Luis Perdomo in the eighth. Twins pitchers ended up with 10 strikeouts in the 10-0 win. Liriano recorded six of them.

Liriano, who went 9-10 with a 5.09 ERA last season, has impressed in three of his four outings this spring, with all four of the runs and four of the six hits he’s allowed coming against the Blue Jays five days ago. Overall, he’s fanned 18 and walked two in 13 innings.

Liriano was obviously better prepared for this spring after getting some innings in during the Dominican Winter League season. His fastball command is better than it was at any point of last season, and his slider is plenty sharp as well. There’s certainly no guarantee that he’ll stay healthy, but he seems poised to deliver the bounce-back season the offensively-challenged Twins are going to need from him.

Clayton Kershaw completes spring training with a 0.00 ERA

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Clayton Kershaw had nothing left to prove when he exited the mound during his last Cactus League start on Friday. He finished camp with a 0.00 ERA, made all the more impressive after he extended his scoreless streak to 21 1/3 innings following 6 2/3 frames of one-hit ball against the Royals.

In six spring training starts this year, the Dodgers southpaw racked up 12 hits, four walks and 23 strikeouts. His velocity appeared to fluctuate between the high-80s and low-90s from start to start, but manager Dave Roberts told reporters that he expects Kershaw to get back up to the 93 m.p.h. range next week. Kershaw is tabbed for his eighth consecutive Opening Day start on Thursday.

The 30-year-old lefty is poised to enter his 11th season with the club in 2018. He went 18-4 in 27 starts last year and turned in a 2.31 ERA, 1.5 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 over 175 innings. He suffered his fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, including a lower back strain that required a five-week stay on the disabled list.

The Dodgers will open their season against the Giants on Thursday, March 29 at 7:08 PM ET. Given the sudden rash of injuries that hit the Giants’ rotation earlier today, Kershaw’s Opening Day opponent has not yet been announced.