Pittsburgh Pirates' starting pitcher Francisco Liriano took the mound Thursday afternoon at Comerica Park in Detroit, seeking a victory in the rubber game of a three-game set between the Pirates and Tigers.
Liriano had returned to form in 2013, winning 16 games for the first time in his career and leading his team into the playoffs. He was given enough run support to rack up those victories.
What a difference a year makes.
Liriano took a no-hit bid into the fifth inning Thursday before Tigers left fielder J.D. Martinez blasted a solo home run to break the scoreless tie.
In all, Liriano allowed just two earned runs over six innings but was again stuck with the loss as Detroit won 5-2.
Since starting the season 0-5, the veteran left-hander has been nearly lights-out, allowing three earned runs or less in his last 10 starts. With that kind of dominance, one would expect Liriano to have a lot more than just three wins on the season. Instead, he has been dealt with tough losses and no decisions for the greater part of the last few months.
Liriano is 3-7 in 2014 when allowing four earned runs or fewer. Compare that to his 2013 campaign, when he posted a record of 16-5 when allowing four runs or fewer.
Again, what a difference a year makes.
Liriano matched up well against 2013 Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, but Scherzer simply overpowered Pittsburgh's offense, striking out 14 batters over eight scoreless innings.
As the season progresses into late August and September, the Pirates will have to find a way to scratch more runs across the board in order to make it back to the postseason for the second consecutive season.
It appears Liriano has returned to being a dominant force on the mound for Pittsburgh, but his form will be meaningless if the Pirates cannot give him any kind of run support.
If they do make it back to the postseason, however, they will be led by one of the hottest pitchers in baseball.