Plan for Francisco Liriano

If the Pittsburgh Pirates continue their winning ways, it'll lead to their first playoff appearance since 1992. And who could start either in the one-game playoff or Game 1 of the NLDS if this happens? None other than...Francisco Liriano. The left-hander is 16-7 with a 2.92 ERA and 1.23 WHIP over 24 starts this season. His consistency in 2013 is a key reason why the Pirates are back in contention for the first time in decades. He'll pitch tonight in a crucial division showdown against the Cincinnati Reds.

"It's an option that we've talked about," Manager Clint Hurdle told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I think the way it lines up right now, if there were no changes, Liriano would be able to pitch a play-in game or the first wild-card game which isn't a bad option to have if that's where you end up going."

Another option is starter A.J. Burnett, who will pitch on Saturday against Cincinnati. But based on his schedule -- he should pitch next weekend on the road against the Reds -- it apears unlikely he can come back on such short notice. Liriano provides that flexibility. According to MLB.com, Liriano has pitched twice on short rest: onnce in 2005 and once last season.

"He is 1-0 in those two starts, having allowed only three hits in 12 innings, while striking out 15," Tom Singer wrote. "His finest game of an otherwise down 2012 season came on the short rest, when he held the Twins to one hit in seven innings of a Sept. 15 win."