Morneau's pinch-hit single lifts Pirates to win
Two weeks into his Pirates career, Justin Morneau had a four-hit game and a three-hit game, but he was still searching for his first RBI as he stepped into the batter's box in the eighth inning Sunday.
It was worth the wait.
Morneau's pinch-hit single drove in the go-ahead run and helped lift the Pirates to a 3-2 win over the Cubs at PNC Park.
With the score tied and one out, Cubs right-hander Pedro Strop hit Andrew McCutchen with a pitch. Marlon Byrd singled to left field for the Pirates' first hit since Tony Sanchez homered off Travis Wood in the fourth inning, and McCutchen went to second.
Morneau batted for Gaby Sanchez. As he stepped in, the former American League MVP had 11 hits in 42 at-bats since making his Pirates' debut Sept. 1, but none of those hits had driven in a run.
The drought ended in a hurry. Morneau singled to left-center field on Strop's first pitch, scoring McCutchen.
“(Strop's) got a real good slider; he struck me out on it a couple days ago, so you keep that in mind,” Morneau said. “All I was telling myself was get something up in the zone and put a good swing on it. Try not to over-think it.”
Francisco Liriano's no-hitter through six innings ended in a no-decision.
Mark Melancon earned his 16th save, and Kyle Farnsworth (1-0) got his first win after pitching a scoreless eighth. The win allowed the Pirates to keep pace with the Cardinals, who beat Seattle, in the race to win the NL Central.
Liriano no-hit the Cubs and allowed four walks through six innings but his pitch count was at 99 when he went back out for the seventh with the Pirates leading, 2-0. Three pitches later, Liriano's no-hitter — and the lead — were gone.
Junior Lake reached on an infield single for the Cubs' first hit, and Liriano received a standing ovation from the crowd of 36,559. It was the 20th sellout of the season, setting a club record.
On a 1-0 pitch, Welington Castillo homered to left field to tie the score. After Darnell McDonald singled to center field to put the go-ahead run at first, manager Clint Hurdle went out to fetch the left-hander.
“We've asked him a dozen times during the season, ‘How you feel,' and he'll either tell us, ‘I'm good to go,' or, ‘I'm not,' ” Hurdle said. “He came in (after the sixth) and said, ‘I'm good to go.' ''
Bryan Morris relieved Liriano, who got his first no-decision of the season. Liriano was the first Pirates pitcher to receive a decision in each of his first 23 starts since Larry French in 1930.
“We stuck to our strengths and used his slider and changeup a lot, which got us a lot of outs early in counts,” catcher Tony Sanchez said. “The good thing about having a no-hitter through six is you don't have to adjust until they adjust, and they hadn't adjusted yet.”
Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.
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