Liriano helps Pirates end skid, finally top Athletics
It was nearing bedtime in households across Pittsburgh, but the Pirates' bats were just waking up Wednesday night in the series finale against the Oakland Athletics.
After a rain delay that lasted as long as it took to play the game, the Pirates snapped a four-game losing streak to beat the A's for the first time ever, 5-0, at PNC Park. Coming into the game, the A's were 11-0 against the Pirates and were the only team in the majors with an undefeated all-time record against another team.
Starling Marte and Jose Tabata were both 2 for 5 with a double, Andrew McCutchen was 2 for 3 with an RBI and Pedro Alvarez was 2 for 4 with two RBI. The offense backed seven shutout innings from left-hander Francisco Liriano, who lowered his ERA to 2.00 and raised his record to 9-3.
Wednesday had turned to Thursday before the game was in the books. Because of a thunderstorm that rolled over the ballpark shortly before the scheduled start time and the subsequent rain that pounded the area for the next two hours, the game did not start until 9:55 p.m.
“It's a little hard, but there's nothing I can do about it. I can't control any of that,” Liriano said. “Just have to stay focused, maybe try to watch a movie or do something to kill some time.”
Liriano opted for YouTube videos rather than a movie, and it did the trick.
The left-hander got an unorthodox double play to end the first inning. He tagged Yoenis Cespedes on a groundout to first then caught Coco Crisp between third and home. Liriano's throw to third baseman Alvarez was in plenty of time for the out.
In the third inning, the Pirates scored one more run than they totaled in the first two games of the series combined.
Back-to-back doubles by Marte and Tabata scored the first run. McCutchen singled to right field to score Tabata and make it 2-0.
Russell Martin grounded into a fielder's choice and advanced to second when Grant Green's double-play throw sailed into the camera well. Martin scored on a single from Alvarez, and two batters later, starter Tommy Milone (8-8) was pulled after throwing 80 pitches in 2 2⁄3 innings.
“I just think we went up there and stayed within our approach and swung at our pitches,” Alvarez said. “Early on he got a couple strikeouts, and I think we did a good job after that of staying within ourselves and waiting for him to come to us and putting some good wood on some balls.”
It was the Pirates' biggest offensive inning since last Friday in Chicago, when they also scored three runs in the third inning with Liriano on the mound.
Liriano, coming off a complete game against the Cubs, gave up just four singles in seven innings Wednesday. He walked one and struck out six. Liriano has given up two or fewer earned runs in 10 of his 12 starts with the Pirates.
“He set the tone and dominated,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He was efficient again. Seven innings, first-pitch strikes were just enough to keep them ready to hit, and he got enough to get them in swing mode early. … He was just on top of his game.”
During the Pirates' four-game skid, they'd struggled with runners in scoring position, going 3 for 27. They were 5 for 9 with runners in scoring position after five innings Wednesday.
They added two more runs with two outs in the fourth inning on RBI singles by Martin and Alvarez.
Despite the long delay, Hurdle said his team found a way to make the best of it.
“It's not easy, but our mindset's what it needs to be,” he said. “Whatever it's going to take is what we're going to do.”