- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball, someone I'd be comfortable handing the NL Cy Young and MVP awards to this season, but the most surprising pitcher in baseball also has amazing numbers: One outing after being obliterated at Coors Field, like so many before him, Pittsburgh Pirates reclamation project Francisco Liriano nearly shut out the St. Louis Cardinals at their place Wednesday night. It was yet another signature performance in a season blessed with them.
I'll admit it took me a while to get on board the Liriano bandwagon this season. After all, the guy not only finished the 2012 season with a 5.34 ERA and 1.47 WHIP, but the year prior it was 5.09 and 1.49. It had been a while since Liriano was able to harness his incredible stuff. That magical summer when Liriano was on his way to the Cy Young Award before his elbow exploded was 2006! That's a long time ago. Many could have given up on him after the nausea-inducing 12-hit, 10-run disaster last week, but Liriano returned to baffle the Cardinals and silence doubters, ultimately allowing one run on four hits and finishing what he started. His ERA is 2.68, his WHIP 1.20, and since he made his season debut on May 11, only nine pitchers have more strikeouts. For the season, Liriano ranks 22nd among starting pitchers on the Player Rater. We can't remove his ugliest outing (at Coors), but if we could, his season ERA would be 1.93. Kershaw's is 1.88. And Liriano has two more wins. Just sayin'.