Liriano’s Bat, Bullpen Lead Pirates to 6-5 Victory

PITTSBURGH – The notion surrounding this Pirates team is that it has become a six-inning game.

Tonight, the bullpen out-did itself. Francisco Liriano labored through three innings during which he threw 79 pitches, only 42 of them for strikes, and gave up seven hits and four earned runs. However, the Pirates stellar bullpen was able to relieve the struggling Liriano, and shut the Dodgers down six innings.

Fortunately for the Pirates, Liriano’s mound opponent Mat Latos also struggled, giving up six earned runs and lasting only four innings.

The Pirates’ big blow came from an unexpected source, none other than Fransisco Liriano, who went opposite field with a Latos 94-mph fastball. The pitch was high and away and Liriano rode it into the stands just to the right of the left-field foul pole for a three-run homer. Liriano has been well known for putting on impressive performances during pitcher’s batting practice by roping ball after ball into the right-field seats with ease. Tonight, however, he did something no one has ever seen from him before, homering in an MLB game for the first time in his 10-year career.

“Most of them are dead-pull – Right field, long. He loves to hit. It was a timely hit.” Hurdle said after the game. He then looked up and put it in great perspective:

“To work it to that part of the park, those things – that’s like Halley’s Comet. I’m really happy it happened. I always kid him, can I see a homer in my lifetime? As many as many as you’ve hit in BP.”

It was as important of a moment as any tonight, as the Pirates would have likely been battling from behind for much of the game without it.

Joe Blanton relieved Liriano in the fourth inning with the Pirates ahead 6-4 courtesy of an RBI groundout by Jung-Ho Kang and a deep home run to right field by Neil Walker. Blanton showed the form that the Pirates were forced to hit against last month in Kansas City when he was a member of the Royals. He struck out three Dodgers in three impressive innings of work, and reestablished some order into a game that was as wacky as any through the first three innings.

“One of the reasons we got him was his ability to pitch through the lineup,” Hurdle said.

After Blanton’s three scoreless innings, the Pirates went with the shutdown trio of Soria-Watson-Melancon, who were able to hold the lead and secure the Pirates’ 64th win of the season.

Game Notes

** Hurdle and Team Video Coordinator Kevin Roach went three-for-three tonight in manager’s challenges, overturning safe calls that stopped potential Dodger rallies. The successful challenges prevented big innings from materializing against both Liriano and Melancon.

“Every one of the calls was against us,” Hurdle said regarding the challenges. It could’ve changed the dynamic of the game dramatically as it went on.”

** Liriano looked to be dealing with some discomfort in the third inning, which led to a visit from both Pirates’ Trainer Todd Tomczyk and Hurdle. Liriano was able to finish the inning, but was promptly replaced by Blanton to start the top of the fourth. Hurdle said after the game that it was not injury related, but Liriano admitted to feeling a “little-something,” pointing to his upper right chest/oblique area.

Liriano says that he expects to be fine for his next start Thursday night in St. Louis.

** Andrew McCutchen is locked in. McCutchen reached base in all four of his plate appearances tonight, and has reached based in 13 of his last 17 plate appearances. In the month of August, he has a .524 OBP to go along with a 1.139 OPS. It is possible that McCutchen is on his way to another Player of the Month award.

** The Pirates will be looking for their seventh home sweep of the season tomorrow night when Charlie Morton goes up against Alex Wood. Wood is 1-1 this season against the Pirates, with a 2.19 ERA in 12.1 innings pitched.

  • This was a weird game, mr. Murphy was out in full force and it was also oddly interesting yet sleep inducing at the same time.

  • Let Alvarez try cleanup again. We have to live with his defensive shortcomings so let his bat play. If the NL had the DH(which I don’t want) I don’t think anybody would have trouble with Pedro being the DH and batting 4th. He has a whole bunch of HR’s and RBI’s for a guy that gets taken out of games in the 6th inning on a regular basis and thus misses out on a lot of PA’s and he also has pretty good numbers for someone who bats so low without any protection. How many more HR’s and RBI’s would he have if he had all of those wasted AB’s that Serpico has gotten? I know his OPS is pretty low, and I really appreciate advanced metrics, but he has a lot of RBI’s and I know he can hit ball out of the park farther than anybody on the roster. He’s the only true power hitter in the lineup.If you don’t want to bat him 4th, I would bat him 5th with either Kang or Walker behind him.I would take a chance in the guy who recently led the league in homeruns. Just an idea.

    • There is another true power hitter on the roster who plays much better defense than Pedro who should get a shot Morse. Pedro has had enough opportunities and he is one of the last players I want to see at the plate when we really need a hit. Morse has shown tremendous power in his career against all pitchers and plays respectable defense at first he has been hitting the ball hard since being acquired and deserves a chance. I’m tired of waiting for Pedro to get it.

      • You have to play both Rameriez and Alvarez, based on the current roster due to injury, how do you justify batting Ramirez 4th and hiding Alvarez at 7th? Morse HAS been a better 1B in the past but Alvarez has outperformed both of them this year. How can you justify batting Ramirez or Morse ahead of Alvarez? Because you expected Alvarez to bat .350 with 40 HR’s and 150 RBI because he was a 1st round pick? Bummer he hasn’t but he has still outperformed Ramirez and Morse this year. He should bat 4th before either of them. Give Morse his chances to see if he can recapture his former glory, but when Pedro is in the lineup he should be hitting 4th or 5th in my opinion.

        • Alvarez is not being hidden in the seven spot, it’s where he sucks the least and his brief flashes of the player you think he is can help a little.

        • The only problem with your idea is Pirates have given Pedro plenty of chances to hit cleanup and 5th and he has batted his way out of there rather quickly. I think he’s more comfortable hitting 6th or 7th.

        • Completely agree. It doesn’t matter if someone sucks relative to our expectations, it matters if they suck relative to the alternative options. I’m on board with you that I rather see Pedro bat cleanup right now over what Ramirez is doing or a position player reclamation project in Morse.

          And, I’ll add that I didn’t understand whenever Ramirez was acquired that everyone was talking the offensive boost he brings. His numbers are a RH Pedro, yet Pedro with slightly better numbers than Ramirez is offensively deemed a bust and we fans are hunting replacements. Yes, Ramirez was certainly an upgrade over Brent Morel, but Ramirez is not an upgrade over Pedro offensively.

          I think you hit the nail on the head that in general Pedro gets judged against our hopes for him rather than by his actual production relative to other internal options. The problem is, even if one does objectively look at it with realistic expectations, he’s not looking like he can be anything more than a DH in MLB due to the horrendous defense, and the Pirates cannot provide him that role in the NL.

      • It’s not an either/or with Morse vs Pedro. They are looking like a platoon so they will both get their shot. In fact, kind of makes more of an argument to put that spot in cleanup if you think they both could potentially succeed there because then you could keep the batter order consistent regardless of which is starting 1B that day.

    • Team runs scored are maximized by having players with the highest OBP get the most at bats so they are on base for the power hitters to drive them in. Pedro’s OBP is way too low to justify him hitting in 4th or 6th.

      • In an optimized lineup Alvarez or Ramirez wouldn’t be atrocious options for the 3 spot, but since that will never happen, neither should batter higher than 6th, they make too many outs to be higher in the order.

        • I can see Cutch at 4 because of SLG, though I think he is best at 3rd. But I am not familiar with a rationale for Alvarez or Ramirez at 3rd spot. What is your thinking?

          • This piece covers what is consider the optimized lineup.

            http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2009/3/17/795946/optimizing-your-lineup-by

            In brief, 3rd spot isn’t that important, having a low OBP guy here isn’t the worst thing in the world. With Polanco, Marte, McCutchen, Kang, and Walker, there really isn’t a reason to have Alvarez or Ramirez higher than 6th.

            • Thanks for the reference, fascinating article though I am skeptical of the derating of the 3rd spot. I presume The Book is based on extensive numerical simulations which are only as accurate as the assumed models they are based upon. I haven’t written any baseball simulations but have done simulations on physical phenomena and have seen how subtle changes can lead to significant changes in results. The conclusions from the Book are so different from conventional wisdom that I’ll really need to learn more details about their model before I believe it.

  • I’d like to see Aramis moved out of cleanup until he starts to hit. Organizing the lineup with respect to OBP and speed I’d like to see:
    1 – Polanco
    2 – Cervelli
    3 – Cutch
    4 – Kang
    5 – Marte
    6 – Walker
    7 -Alvarez/Morse
    8 – Ramirez
    9 – P
    until jay Hay returns then plug him in for Ramirez and see when his bat begins to play.

    • Don’t hate that lineup, love Kang at four, but I’d like him better at 5 with Marte at 4. In case Marte gets on the chances are Kang sees fastballs and he likes fastballs.

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