Here’s a sentence that would have sounded pretty crazy back in spring training: Francisco Liriano is lined up to start the Wild Card play-in game for the Pirates.
Even crazier is that the Pirates may not need him to do that if they win the NL Central, but if Pittsburgh plays in the Wild Card playoff game Liriano would likely get the call, manager Clint Hurdle told Jenn Menendez of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:
It’s an option that we’ve talked about. I think the way it lines up right now, if there were no changes, Liriano would be able to pitch a play-in game or the first wild-card game which isn’t a bad option to have if that’s where you end up going.
Liriano is 16-7 with a 2.92 ERA and 148 strikeouts in 148 innings and it’s also worth noting that he’s been historically dominant versus left-handed hitters this season, which would be a nice fit if the Pirates end up facing a Reds lineup that revolves around lefties Joey Votto, Shin-Soo Choo, and Jay Bruce.
Liriano has one career playoff start, back in 2010 against the Yankees in the ALDS. It was at Target Field in Minnesota and I was there and it was sad. But if the Pirates are going to put their season in the hands of one pitcher Liriano is a pretty easy pick.
At the trade deadline, relief pitching is the name of the game and one of the names clearly available is Pat Neshek. Today Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the Nationals, Dodgers, and Red Sox are among the clubs who are closely scouting the Phillies reliever. Last week Ken Rosenthal reported that the Brewers and Rays were involved as well.
Neshek is an impending free agent, so he may come cheaper than Justin Wilson or some of the other bullpen arms available right now. The All-Star is 36 and is posting a fantastic season, featuring a 1.12 ERA and 45/5 K/BB ratio over 40.1 innings this season.
Some seriously bad news for the Dodgers: Ken Rosenthal reports that the initial prognosis on Clayton Kershaw is that he will miss 4-6 weeks with his bad back. A final determination will be made after he gets a second medical consultation.
Kershaw exited Sunday’s start against the Braves with back tightness after just two innings of work. He was seen talking with trainers in the dugout after completing the top of the second inning and did not return to the mound for the third. Kershaw has a history of back problems. Last year he missed over two months with a herniated disc in his back.
Assuming the preliminary schedule holds, Kershaw would be on the shelf until late August at the earliest, but more likely early-to-mid September. The Dodgers currently hold a 10.5 game lead in the NL West so they can withstand his absence. But if they have any hopes of advancing in the playoffs, they’ll need a fully armed and operational Clayton Kershaw to do it.