(BaseballStL) -- Francisco Liriano didn’t let the Cardinals’ potent offense get to him in any of his first three starts against them this season. And he’s not going to let an illness get to him before his fourth meeting, and Game 3 of the NLDS, scheduled for Sunday in Pittsburgh.
“I feel kind of sick, my nose and throat.” Liriano said at Saturday’s workout day press conference. “It doesn't bother me to pitch. I'll be okay.”
It’s been Liriano who has caused an offensive epidemic to rattle the National League’s top run scoring squad, and creates a major concern for St. Louis with the best-of-five series tied at one game apiece. The left-hander allowed the Cardinals, which scored 783 regular season runs, to score only two over 24 innings in three Pittsburgh wins this season.
A success rate beyond comprehension. A success rate that will make St. Louis fans bite their nails.
“Hopefully tomorrow I can go out there and try to do the same thing,” Liriano said. “Not try to do too much. I won't change anything. Like I said, be myself and hopefully everything goes well.”
And, at home, everything has gone well for Liriano, who will turn 30 on October 26.
In 11 home starts, Liriano posted an 8-1 record with a 1.47 earned-run average. He’s allowed 45 hits in 73 2/3 innings, only two of those traveled over PNC Park’s outfield wall. The Pirates lost only two games -- both to the Reds -- when Liriano started at home this year.
Just another success rate worth cringing over for the Cardinals’ faithful.
“I've been able to execute pitches and have good location here and the guys behind me make some great plays for me here,” Liriano said. “Just be more consistent with the strike zone, and not try to do too much. That's the whole key for me is trying not to overthrow.”
The butterflies of pitching in the postseason won’t be fresh either. Liriano led the Pirates to a 6-2 wild-card victory over the Reds to advance to the NLDS Tuesday. It was the first playoff game for Pittsburgh since 1992, and Liriano’s first postseason appearance since October 6, 2010 when he pitched for the Minnesota Twins.
As expected, fans packed PNC Park for a record attendance Tuesday and made a much talked about noise level behind Liriano as he gave up only four hits and a walk over seven innings.
“Tuesday was a very exciting game for me,” Liriano said. “The fans were pretty loud. They wanted to win. So I went out there to be myself and try to do what I was doing before, and not try to do too much and trying to keep the team in the ballgame.”
On paper, it’s a Rocky Balboa, the underdog, versus Ivan Drago matchup when the Cardinals and Liriano meet.
“I guess what I'm trying to say is, if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change,” Sylvester Stallone’s character Rocky told the Soviet Union crowd near the end of Rocky IV.
'Change' -- it’s exactly what the Cardinals will need to happen if they are going to win Sunday’s nine-inning battle versus Drago...er, I mean Liriano.
Scott Bierman covers the Cardinals, Rams and Blues for KMOV.com and its associated mobile apps (BaseballStL, FootballStL and HockeyStL). You can follow him on Twitter @Scott_Bierman for St. Louis sports news and updates.