Francisco Liriano was at his wildest, but the left-hander battled through jams with strikeouts and flyouts to pitch the Pirates to a 2-0 win Friday afternoon in Chicago.
The left-hander struck out eight hitters and allowed only two hits en route to the second seven-inning shutout of the Cubs in the last month. Despite giving up five walks and throwing a season-low 56% strikes, Liriano kept a zero on Wrigley Field’s scoreboard and lowered his season ERA to 1.75.
Russell Martin drove in the game’s first run in the 6th inning. After Jordy Mercer hit a double into left and moved to third base on a flyout, Martin stepped up with two outs and pounded a first-pitch slider into the left-field corner to bring him home. In the 9th, Martin drew a leadoff walk, then next batter Pedro Alvarez lined a single to right to move him to third base. After Neil Walker struck out, Travis Snider grounded to third but beat out a possible inning-ending double play and score Martin.
Other than Mercer and Martin unearthing two hits each, the Pirates continued to toil in the batting mines for most of the game, digging up only seven total hits. Some credit must go to starting pitcher Travis Wood, who gave up one run in six innings of work. Wood allowed four hits and two walks, but struck out six Pirates hitters and broke up Liriano’s no-hit bid in the 5th inning with a sharp single to left.
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Liriano’s seven scoreless innings were not without trouble. With two outs in the second, Liriano walked back-to-back hitters before getting Ryan Sweeney to fly out. In the 4th, he walked leadoff hitter Anthony Rizzo, then left a fastball over the plate that Alfonso Soriano crushed to dead-center before the ball fell into McCutchen’s glove on the warning track. After walking the next batter, Liriano struck out Welington Castillo and got Starlin Castro to line out. His fifth free pass was in the 5th inning, walking Cody Ransom on four pitches after Wood’s single. He then pumped three straight strikes past a frozen Rizzo to escape unharmed.
Cubs batters whiffed on 13 of Liriano’s pitches, but he mostly nibbled along the bottom edge of the zone for called strikes and weak contact. He now has earned 47 strikeouts over 36 innings this season.
Mark Melancon pitched a scoreless 8th inning with two strikeouts and Jason Grilli struck out the side in the 9th, despite giving up two singles, to stop the Pirates’ three-game losing streak.
The Pirates collected their 10th shutout of the season on June 7, which is the earliest point in franchise history (dating back to 1916) a Pittsburgh team has gotten double-digit shutouts.