MINNEAPOLIS -- Francisco Liriano built his comeback season on getting deeper into games with slightly bigger pitch counts than he had in the past, but he had a September slump when he got away from that. His first postseason start seemed set for a determined return to the former until the sixth inning did him in.
From Opening Day through Aug. 1, Liriano topped the 100-pitch mark in 11 outings, and pitched into the seventh inning or later in 10 of them, part of the reason he posted a 10-7 record and 3.38 ERA during that stretch. After that, though, he did it in only one of his final five starts in which he surpassed 100 pitches, though he lasted seven innings on just 99 pitches on Aug. 26 at Texas.
Not only did Liriano hold the Yankees scoreless through the first five innings, he needed just 79 pitches to do it, leaving him poised for a deep outing. Instead, New York hitters took 27 pitches out of him in the sixth, then forced him out of the game with Curtis Granderson's go-ahead triple on the last of those pitches.
Liriano said he simply missed his spots and started rushing his pitches, but he also noted the Yankees adjusted their approach.
"They were more patient the third at-bat, the sixth inning," he said. "They weren't swinging at the fastball and slider I was throwing early in the game."
Liriano was already over 100 pitches by the time Granderson came up. Given Liriano's success in their meetings -- Granderson was 4-for-24 with 13 strikeouts lifetime off the lefty going into that at-bat -- manager Ron Gardenhire said he didn't think about pulling Liriano for reliever Jose Mijares.
"You take your starter out in a game like that, it's not the right thing to do," Gardenhire said. "We were trying to get through it and I had all the confidence in the world he could get Granderson out. It's his ballgame."
Liriano left with two outs in the sixth at 106 pitches, his highest pitch count since mid-August.
"I didn't look at the pitch counts," Liriano said, "so I didn't know how many pitches I had in that inning. I don't really pay attention to that, just try to finish the inning."