Liriano wins 16th game, as Pirates hold on to beat Rangers
By Rob Biertempfel
Published: Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, 11:45 p.m.
ARLINGTON, Texas — The Pirates have won 83 games for the first time since ... um, never mind.
There was little fanfare Tuesday after the Pirates crafted a blue-collar, 5-4 victory against the Texas Rangers. Which is exactly the way they want it.
One day after enduring the external hoopla surrounding victory No. 82, which clinched their first winning record since 1992, the Pirates got back to the business of chasing the NL Central title.
“The season's not going to stop,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We battled. We battled off the mound and we battled off the plate.”
Closer Mark Melancon gave up two runs in the ninth inning then ended it by striking out Adrian Beltre with the tying run on third base.
“I just had faith in what we were doing,” Melancon said. “I never lost composure or thought any negative thoughts. Just go after it and it will pan out in the end.”
There was music and laughter in the postgame clubhouse, but nobody was passing out “83” T-shirts.
“We still want more — as many (wins) as we can get,” said Jordy Mercer, who had a career-high four hits. “It was a good team win. After (being swept in) St. Louis, we've kind of turned it around.”
Starter Francisco Liriano went six innings and gave up one run on six hits. He walked two and struck out five. Liriano (16-7) is the first Pirates left-hander to win more than 15 games since John Smiley (20-8) and Zane Smith (16-10) in 1991.
Rangers rookie left-hander Martin Perez (9-4) pitched on six days' rest after swapping spots with Yu Darvish, who worked Monday.
Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez, making his first start since Aug. 24, began the third inning with a double to left. He went to third base on Mercer's one-out single.
Andrew McCutchen's liner caromed off Perez's shin toward third base. Perez recovered quickly and threw home. Sanchez was running hard, but did not slide.
Catcher A.J. Pierzynski blocked the plate with his left foot. Sanchez stepped on the foot — he did not appear to touch home plate — and skidded to a stop on the edge of the dirt. The ball ticked off Pierzynski's glove, which allowed Mercer to go to third base.
It was McCutchen's third RBI in September, but the first two came on solo homers. He hadn't driven in a teammate since Aug. 28.
Liriano walked Beltre leading off the bottom of the fourth. Pierzynski hit a hard, one-hopper down the first-base line.
Gaby Sanchez lunged to snag the ball then kept his balance — and kept his wits — to kick the corner of the bag. Beltre, perhaps thinking the ball was foul, did not run hard to second base, but instead slowed down and veered off to the right. That made it easier for Mercer to apply the tag and complete the double play.
Pierzynski and Rangers manager Ron Washington argued briefly with first base umpire Chad Fairchild to no avail.
In the fifth, the Pirates had nobody on base and two outs yet came up with three runs.
Mercer lined a double into the left field corner, then went to third when Craig Gentry couldn't corral the ball. McCutchen, a .382 hitter against lefties, bounced a seeing-eye RBI single to left. Marlon Byrd singled, moving McCutchen to second.
Gaby Sanchez lined a single into shallow left. McCutchen never slowed down and scored, and Byrd steamed into third base, which paid dividends when Perez whizzed a wild pitch and Byrd scored to make it 4-0.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
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