Who’s Hot, Who’s Not: Liriano leads Bucs to a searing September

(Clockwise from top left) Los Angeles Angels' Matt Shoemaker, Pittsburgh's Francisco Liriano, San Diego's Alexi Amarista and Kansas City's Nori Aoki are this week's hottest pitchers and hitters.

USA TODAY Sports

Some have slumped, while others have simmered. Here’s our weekly review of who’s running hot and cold around Major League Baseball.

Stats through Sept. 18

HOT PITCHERS

AL — Matt Shoemaker, Los Angeles Angels

Shoemaker went 5-0 with a 1.13 ERA in six starts from Aug. 21-Sept. 15. The right-hander allowed just five runs, 26 hits and he struck out 31 in 40 innings during the span. He closed August at 6-1 with a strong 1.31 ERA in seven starts, and he’s 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in three September outings. He lasted at least seven innings in four of his starts from Aug. 21-Sept. 15. Overall, he’s 16-4 with a 3.04 ERA and 124 strikeouts this season.

NL — Francisco Liriano, Pittsburgh Pirates

Liriano went 3-0 with a 0.82 ERA in five starts from Aug. 25-Sept. 17. The left-hander allowed just three runs, 19 hits and he struck out 36 in 33 innings during the span. He lasted at least six innings in all the appearances, and he went at least seven twice (against the Cincinnati Reds on Aug. 31 and Philadelphia Phillies on Sept. 11). He struck out a season-high 12 in the victory over the Phillies. Overall, he’s 6-10 with a 3.45 ERA and 163 strikeouts this season.

HOT HITTERS

AL — Nori Aoki, Kansas City Royals

Aoki hit .520 (13 for 25) with two RBI in six games from Sept. 12-17. He had four multi-hit games in the span, including two contests with four hits each. He’s hitting a sizzling .423 with a 1.011 OPS in September. Overall, he has hit .281 with one home run and 38 RBI this season.

NL — Alexi Amarista, San Diego Padres

Amarista hit .423 (11 for 26) with two home runs and eight RBI in seven games from Sept. 12-18. He had four multi-hit games in the span, including a day when he went 3 for 4 with two RBI in a victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sept. 16. He has hit .267 with a .669 OPS in September. Overall, he has hit .245 with five home runs and 35 RBI this season.

HOT TEAMS

AL — Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles went 6-1 in games from Sept. 12-17. The run included success against American League East rivals, with three victories each over the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays. The Orioles are 10-1 in games from Sept. 7-17. At 92-60, they’ve clinched the AL East and trail just the Los Angeles Angels (95-58) for the AL’s best record.

NL — Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates went 5-1 in games from Sept. 12-18. They took advantage of weak competition in the span, winning two of three games against the Chicago Cubs and claiming a three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox. They won 11 of 13 games from Sept. 5-18. At 82-70, they trail the St. Louis Cardinals by 2 1/2 games in the National League Central.

(Clockwise from top left) Houston’s Brett Oberholtzer, Arizona’s Vidal Nuno, Atlanta’s Justin Upton and New York Yankees’ Brett Gardner are this week’s struggling pitchers and hitters.

COLD PITCHERS

AL — Brett Oberholtzer, Houston Astros

Oberholtzer went 0-2 in starts against the Los Angeles Angels on Sept. 12 and Cleveland Indians on Sept. 17. The left-hander allowed eight runs (six earned), 12 hits and he struck out nine in 12 innings in the appearances. From Aug. 13-Sept. 17, he lost five of six decisions. Overall, he’s 5-12 with a 4.39 ERA and 91 strikeouts this season.

NL — Vidal Nuno, Arizona Diamondbacks

Nuno went 0-1 with a 7.84 ERA in starts against the San Diego Padres on Sept. 12 and Colorado Rockies on Sept. 18. The left-hander allowed nine runs, 16 hits and he struck out nine in 10 1/3 innings in the appearances. He never lasted beyond 5 1/3 innings in either outing, and the six runs allowed in the loss to the San Diego Padres were the most he surrendered since giving up eight in a loss to the Oakland Athletics on June 15. Overall, he’s 2-11 with a 4.60 ERA and 123 strikeouts this season.

COLD HITTERS

AL — Brett Gardner, New York Yankees

Gardner hit .042 (1 for 24) with eight strikeouts in seven games from Sept. 12-18. His lone hit in the window came on a single in a loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Sept. 12. He has hit just .128 with a .346 OPS in September. Overall, he’s hitting .259 with 16 home runs and 57 RBI this season.

NL — Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves

Upton hit .045 (1 for 22) with nine strikeouts in six games from Sept. 12-17. His lone hit in the span came when he smacked a double in a loss to the Washington Nationals on Sept. 15. He has hit just .125 with a .472 OPS in September. Overall, he’s hitting .273 with 27 home runs and 97 RBI this season.

COLD TEAMS

AL — Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays went 1-6 in games from Sept. 12-18. Their offense was largely silent during the skid, scoring two runs or fewer in five of their losses. The recent slide follows a four-game winning streak from Sept. 7-10, which was their third-longest streak of the season’s second half. At 77-75, they’re six games behind the Oakland Athletics for the American League’s second wild-card spot.

NL — Cincinnati Reds

The Reds went 1-5 in games from Sept. 12-17. The slide included two losses in three games against the Milwaukee Brewers, and a three-game sweep by the Chicago Cubs. The Reds are a rough 5-11 in September, and they lost four consecutive games from Sept. 14-17. At 71-82, they’re in fourth in the National League Central, 14 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

‘Tis the season for bubbly. The Los Angeles Angels were among the first division winners crowned this week when they took the American League West, and the postgame sights are always fantastic. The Baltimore Orioles (AL East) and Washington Nationals (National League East) also joined in the wet-and-wild fun. Tight races remain — no leader in an unsettled division had more than a 2 1/2 game lead after play Sept. 18 — so buckle in and prepare for a dramatic close to the regular season.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.