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Liriano stands out, leads Bucs to victory over Cubs

| Friday, June 7, 2013, 5:42 p.m.
Pirates closer Jason Grilli (right) celebrates with catcher Russell Martin after the Pirates defeated the Chicago Cubs, 2-0, on Friday, June 7, 2013, in Chicago.
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The Pirates' Russell Martin follows through on an RBI double that scored Jordy Mercer during the sixth inning against the Cubs on Friday, June 7, 2013, at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Pirates starter Francisco Liriano throws against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning Friday, June 7, 2013, in Chicago. The Pirates held off the Cubs, 2-0.
The Pirates' Russell Martin signals to the dugout from second base after hitting an RBI double against the Chicago Cubs in the sixth inning Friday, June 7, 2013, in Chicago.
Pirates owner Bob Nutting watches his team play against the Chicago Cubs during the fifth inning Friday, June 7, 2013, in Chicago.
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The Cubs' Scott Hairston gets back to first base as Pirates first baseman Gaby Sanchez puts on a late tag on a pickoff play during the fourth inning on Friday, June 7, 2013 in Chicago.
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Pirates outfielders (from left) Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Travis Snider celebrate a win over the Chicago Cubs on Friday, June 7, 2013 in Chicago. The Pirates defeated the Cubs, 2-0.
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The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen (left) and Gaby Sanchez celebrate a win over the Chicago Cubs on Friday, June 7, 2013 in Chicago. The Pirates defeated the Cubs, 2-0.
The Pirates' Francisco Liriano reacts after striking out swinging during the second inning against the Chicago Cubs on Friday, June 7, 2013, in Chicago.
Pirates starter Francisco Liriano (center) and first baseman Gaby Sanchez (right) listen to catcher Russell Martin during the second inning against the Chicago Cubs on Friday, June 7, 2013, in Chicago.
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Pirates left fielder Starling Marte drops a fly ball hit by the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano during the second inning on Friday, June 7, 2013, in Chicago.
The Pirates' Russell Martin runs after hitting an RBI double against the Chicago Cubs during the sixth inning on Friday, June 7, 2013, in Chicago.
The Pirates' Russell Martin (55) celebrates with third base coach Nick Leyva (left) after arriving at third base on Pedro Alvarez's single as Chicago Cubs third baseman Starlin Castro (right) looks on during the ninth inning on Friday, June 7, 2013, in Chicago.
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Pirates closer Jason Grilli delivers during the ninth inning against the Chicago Cubs on Friday, June 7, 2013 in Chicago. The Pirates defeated the Cubs, 2-0.
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Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano delivers during the fifth inning against the Chicago Cubs on Friday, June 7, 2013, in Chicago.
Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer (left) tags out the Chicago Cubs' Alfonso Soriano at second base after Soriano was caught off first base during the second inning Friday, June 7, 2013, in Chicago.

CHICAGO — There wasn't one pitch in particular that disobeyed left-hander Francisco Liriano in Friday's game against the Chicago Cubs.

“It was everything,” he said. “I was missing with my fastball, changeup, slider. I was all over the place. Everything was down, but I was missing my spots a lot.”

But for a veteran pitcher like Liriano, crummy command doesn't necessarily lead to a rotten outing. He churned out seven scoreless innings to pace the Pirates to a 2-0 victory against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Liriano (4-2) allowed just two hits (both singles), walked five and struck out eight. It was the fifth time in six starts that he's given up one run or less.

After being swept by the Atlanta Braves in a three-game set earlier in the week, the Pirates got back on track by beating the Cubs for the fourth time in a row.

Most of the credit, as usual, goes to the pitching staff. After Liriano softened up the Cubs, relievers Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli made the slender lead hold up.

The Pirates have scored two or fewer runs in six of their 10 shutouts this season. In none of those 10 games did a starter go beyond the seventh inning.

When the offense struggles the way it has been, every inning becomes a high-leverage frame for the starters and relievers.

“It hasn't been just the eighth or the ninth,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It's been a lot of different points and times, so everybody out there has contributed.”

Melancon found a bright side to the glut of high-stress outings.

“When you're put in a situation where it's a one-run game, it's nice to have a few under your belt before you go out there,” Melancon said. “That can only help us in the long run.”

Liriano walked Anthony Rizzo to start the fourth inning. His second pitch to Alfonso Soriano was a fastball that stayed straight and up in the zone. Soriano blasted it, but the wind was blowing in off Lake Michigan, and center fielder Andrew McCutchen made the catch.

“I was so happy I got away with that pitch,” Liriano said. “A great day to have the wind blowing in.”

Liriano held the Cubs hitless until the fifth, when pitcher Travis Wood slapped a one-out single to left field. Chicago had runners at second and third with two outs, but a mound visit by pitching coach Ray Searage allowed Liriano to regroup. He fired a laser on the outside edge to Rizzo, who took it for an inning-ending strikeout.

“All his pitches are deceiving,” catcher Russell Martin said. “He has his fastball arm speed on both his off-speed pitches, which throws hitters off a little bit. And he throws every pitch with conviction.”

The Pirates finally broke through against Wood (5-4) in the sixth. Jordy Mercer hit a one-out double, then went to third on McCutchen's fly out to center. Gaby Sanchez walked. First-pitch swinging, Martin lined an RBI double into the left-field corner.

“I was just looking for something out over the plate,” Martin said. “Travis is so good at mixing speeds, throwing that cutter to both sides of the plate, changing eye levels. I told my self to be aggressive. I wasn't going to wait around because he was throwing a lot of strikes.”

In the ninth, Martin drew a leadoff walk from righty reliever Carlos Villanueva. Pedro Alvarez singled, moving Martin to third base. Travis Snider reached on a fielder's choice grounder, which scored Martin.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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