By Matt Popchock

PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — Pirates starter Charlie Morton earned the nickname “Ground Chuck” for his ability to induce ground balls, but lately Francisco Liriano is the one in the rotation who has best kept his opponents “grounded.”

Since his release from the Minnesota Twins, and his embarrassing off-season arm injury, Liriano has picked himself off the ground to become one of Major League Baseball’s feel-good stories in 2013.

With an ERA that ranks second in the National League only to that of 2011 Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, he is on pace for one of the best seasons by a Bucco southpaw since the franchise’s glory years, and it’s largely because of ground balls.

In his case, one hand seems to feed the other. Liriano (12-4) is doing a better job mixing in his breaking stuff; he has thrown his fastball only about 42% of the time this year, while relying on his slider 38% of the time and his change-up 20% of the time.

As is the case with Morton, when the breaking stuff works, it usually leads to outs. Not only has it led to outs for Liriano, it’s also led to an improved strikeout rate.

The latter was named NL Player of the Week after fanning 14 over the course of two victorious outings against the St. Louis Cardinals and Colorado Rockies at home, where Liriano has been unflappable, winning seven of eight starts with a 1.39 ERA and 1.04 WHIP.

Over the course of those two games Liriano induced 20 grounders, as opposed to just 11 fly balls, as well as three double plays.

Click here for a complete breakdown of his success by Thom Tsang of Rant Sports.

Liriano will be the on the hill again this weekend when the Bucs (68-44) make their lone 2013 trip to Coors Field to take on the Rockies. Meanwhile, the Pirates play the middle of their three-game series against the Miami Marlins, with Morton on the mound, Wednesday at 7:05.

“Pirates Preview” with Dan Zangrilli and Kevin Orie gets underway live from PNC Park at 5:40, on your flagship home for Pirates baseball, SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan.


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