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Francisco Liriano strikes out 13 in latest gem

Pittsburgh Pirates v San Diego Padres

SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 19: Francisco Liriano #47 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on August 19, 2013 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

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The Pirates made the best free agent signing of last winter when they inked Francisco Liriano to a two-year contract, though it nearly fell apart because of an injury to Liriano’s non-throwing arm.

That injury caused the deal to be knocked down to $12.75 million from its original $14 million and it resulted in Liriano spending the first 40 days of the season on the DL, but he’s been lights out since returning, allowing one or no runs in 13 of his 19 starts, including five of his last six (though he did give up 10 runs in 2 1/3 innings in the other).

Liriano’s latest gem Monday saw him strike out 13 batters over seven scoreless innings in a defeat of the Padres. It was the second highest strikeout total of his career (he fanned 15 against the A’s last July). He improved to 14-5 with a 2.53 ERA on the season.

The Twins have to be shaking their heads to see Liriano experiencing such success. He went 6-12 with a 5.34 ERA for Minnesota and the White Sox last year. Though the Twins practically gave him away in a deadline deal, they weighed re-signing him last winter. Still, they weren’t going to offer him more than a one-year deal. The Pirates went two years and are thrilled that they did, considering that Liriano might be this winter’s No. 2 free agent starter behind Matt Garza (another ex-Twin) if he were back on the market. Despite the late start, Liriano has 126 strikeouts in 121 innings this season. The Twins’ strikeout leader is Kevin Correia with 80 in 140 2/3 IP.

Follow @MatthewPouliot