Liriano, Pirates put a halt on losing streak, shut down Cardinals
ST. LOUIS — Francisco Liriano said he was just trying to hit his spots and not do too much.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle had a bit stronger description of what the left-hander did in a 5-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Wednesday.
“That was masterful, from start to finish,” Hurdle said.
Liriano (13-5) pitched his second complete game of the season and third of his career to help the Pirates stop a four-game losing streak, one night after they lost the first game of the series against the Cardinals, 4-3, in 14 innings.
In a testament to his efficiency, Liriano began the ninth inning with his pitch count at 83 and a shutout on the line. He lost the shutout on Carlos Beltran's RBI groundout, but no matter. Liriano was pleased even without the shutout, which would have been just the second of his career.
“I was thinking just about the next hitter and winning the game,” Liriano said. “I wasn't thinking about the shutout.”
Making the effort even more impressive was that Liriano was coming off the worst game of his career, a miserable outing in Colorado on Friday in which he gave up 10 runs and 12 hits in 2 1⁄3 innings.
Hurdle said he had no doubt that the left-hander would bounce back.
“I believe what I believe, and I believed he was going to go out and throw a good game,” Hurdle said.
Pedro Alvarez, who has been a terror against the Cardinals the past two years but is batting just .189 since the All-Star break, hit a home run estimated at 440 feet to center field off right-hander Shelby Miller (11-8) in the second inning.
Garrett Jones added as solo shot — his first since July 21 — to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead.
“It definitely feels good to just connect on one, know you got one and put a good swing on the ball,” Jones said.
The Pirates took a 5-0 lead in the fourth inning. Neil Walker, led off with a single. Third baseman David Freese bobbled a sharply hit ball by Jones and was charged with an error, giving the Pirates runners on first and second.
After Andrew Lambo flied out to right, Tony Sanchez singled in Walker. Starling Marte's two-run double capped the scoring.
Liriano is the first Pirates pitcher to earn a decision in each of his first 17 starts since Vern Law, who had a decision in his first 19 in 1965. He's one win shy of matching his career high of 14, set in 2010 with Minnesota when he was named AL Comeback Player of the Year.
“It's a great feeling,” Liriano said. “I had my worst game in Colorado, and I was able to come in today and go deep in the game after a long game last night. It was great not only for me but for the whole team.”