Liriano struggles in his return from injury as Reds knock off Pirates
CINCINNATI — A rough-edged outing Sunday by pitcher Francisco Liriano did not set off alarm bells with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.
In his first start since coming off the disabled list, Liriano lasted only four innings in a 6-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.
The setback wrapped up a 2-5 road trip. The Pirates head into the All-Star break with a 49-46 record and are in fourth place in the NL Central, 3 1⁄2 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers.
Liriano was out of the game even before a passing shower halted play for nearly an hour in the fifth inning. He yielded three runs on three hits, issued six walks and struck out four.
The big blow was Kris Negron's three-run homer in the second inning. It was Negron's second career hit.
“One bad strike,” Hurdle said. “Liriano was rusty. The command will improve as he continues to pitch. There also was some swing-and-miss stuff, and he got out of a couple situations as he's done in the past.”
The Reds left the bases loaded in two of the first four innings. In the fourth, Liriano struck out Todd Frazier and Chris Heisey to get out of the jam.
“I just tried to stay calm and make pitches when I needed to,” Liriano said.
The NL Comeback Player of the Year in 2013, Liriano (1-7) has been out of sync from the start this season.
During spring training, Liriano was bothered by a groin injury. In April, he left a start against the St. Louis Cardinals in the third inning due to what the team said was dizziness and flu-like symptoms. He went on the DL June 10 with a strained left oblique.
“I finally feel 100 percent healthy,” Liriano said. “It was very frustrating, and it wasn't easy for me. I hate being on the DL.”
Although he's lugging a 4.72 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP, Liriano has not lost Hurdle's confidence. Liriano will start Friday against the Colorado Rockies in the first game after the All-Star break.
“We're trying to get him in rhythm quickly so we can see what we've got,” Hurdle said. “We're going to give him every opportunity to get out of the box and get going.”
Liriano cruised through the first inning, getting three outs — two grounders and a called strikeout — on 15 pitches. He needed 33 pitches to get out of the second.
It started with Heisey's bloop double that ticked off second baseman Neil Walker's glove. With one out and Heisey on third, Liriano pitched around Devin Mesoraco — a four-pitch walk — to face the bottom of the order.
Brayan Pena flew out to right field, and the Reds opted not to test Gregory Polanco's arm. That decision paid off when Negron whacked a 1-1 changeup into the right-field seats.
“A mistake pitch,” Liriano said. “I'll learn from it.”
The Pirates got a gift run in the fourth. Andrew McCutchen dropped a hit into right field. Jay Bruce tried to make a diving catch, and the ball rolled away from him, so McCutchen got a triple. McCutchen scored on Walker's ground out.
If Bruce had conceded the hit and played the ball on the bounce, McCutchen likely would have been held to a single, and Walker's roller would have been an inning-ending double play.
Reds starter Johnny Cueto (10-6) was not sharp, but the Pirates did not fully exploit it. The right-hander gave up three runs on five hits, walked two and struck out seven.
“We made him work,” Hurdle said. “We were just one hit away from popping it. We couldn't get that last, big swing.”
The top of the fifth was interrupted by a 56-minute rain delay. When play resumed, Cueto was still on the mound.
“It was hot and muggy. The air was real thick,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “It was almost like the rain delay came on as a blessing because he was able to come in, cool off a little bit.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates use big 7th inning to sweep Marlins, stretch winning streak to 6
- Pirates notebook: Alvarez having success looking the other way
- Gameday: Pirates at Padres, May 28, 2015
- Pirates notebook: Struggling Polanco held out of starting lineup
- Gameday: Pirates vs. Marlins, May 26, 2015
- Pirates notebook: Morton’s return to Pirates means Liz leaves
- Pirates win 5th straight as offense continues to click in win over Marlins
- Gameday: Pirates vs. Marlins, May 27, 2015
- Pirates pitcher Morton turns in solid performance in win over Marlins
- Gameday: Pirates vs. Marlins, May 25, 2014
- Starter Liriano strikes out 12, leads Pirates to series sweep of Mets