Francisco’s gem leads Pirates to win

Francisco Liriano pitched his second complete game today, and the Pirates’ offense gave him more than enough support.  Every player had at least one hit, even Gaby Sanchez, who came in late as a defensive replacement and only had one at-bat.  Liriano helped his own cause with a hit and an RBI, and the Pirates won the first game in this weekend’s series against the Cubs in Chicago by a score of 6-2.

Liriano’s RBI led to the first run of the game.  It came in the second inning with two outs.  Russell Martin had doubled, and Jordy Mercer was intentionally walked before Liriano came to bat (Mercer was the only Pirate without a hit, but he walked three times).  Liriano singled to left, scoring Martin.  Mercer tried to advance to third base on the play and was tagged out, but the Pirates had a 1-0 lead already.

The Cubs took the lead in the bottom of the second on a Scott Hairston two-run shot, but Liriano decided that was it.

The Pirates’ offense agreed, and Starling Marte led off the third with a single.  Neil Walker tripled to score Marte.  Andrew McCutchen walked, and Garrett Jones singled to score Walker and move Cutch to third.  Then came possibly the funnest play of the game.  As Russell Martin struck out, Jones took off for second.  Cubs catcher Dioner Navarro threw down to second to try to get Jones.  He failed, and Cutch took off for home, successfully stealing home and making the score 4-2 Pirates.

Jose Tabata drove in a run in the fifth inning, and Cutch grounded out to score another run in the eighth.

The Cubs threatened in the bottom of the eighth when Starlin Castro doubled with two outs.  However, a strong throw from Martin caught Castro off the bag.  Walker applied the tag, and the inning was over.

Liriano needed just 111 pitches to get through his beautiful game.  Despite a two-out walk in the ninth, Hurdle left him in and trusted him to get the job done.  Liriano rewarded Hurdle’s trust with a complete game victory, allowing just four hits and four walks while striking out seven.

“It was amazing.  He was aggressive after hitters, keeping guys off balance with strikeouts, ground balls, getting outs,” Garrett Jones said after the game.  Garrett was two-for-four today with a triple, a run scored, and an RBI.  The Pirates slammed three total triples today.  Garrett Jones is from Chicago and always enjoys playing in his home city.  “It always feels good coming to Chicago, and I’ve had some success here.  And playing in front of the home crowd and family and friends is always fun.”

Garrett has played with Liriano in the past; both were members of the Twins in years past.  He was asked what’s happened to make Liriano the dominant pitcher he’s been this season.  “I think just learning how to pitch and trusting his stuff,” Garrett replied.  “He’s always had good stuff.  And learning how to get hitters out.”

“The guys were great behind me.  They had some great plays, and Russell made a great throw to second,” Liriano said after the game.  “This is my second complete game, and I’m so excited and very happy.”

Liriano improved to 8-3 today, tying Locke for the team lead in wins.  He lowered his ERA to 2.20.

The Pirates improved to 53-32 today, maintaining not just first place in the NL Central but still the best record in Major League Baseball.

Game two of the three-game series is tomorrow at 4:05pm.  Charlie Morton (1-1, 2.50 ERA) will take the mound for the Pirates and face Edwin Jackson (4-10, 5.75 ERA).