Liriano throws 4-hitter, as Pirates dump Cubs
CHICAGO — Since A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez have been out of the Pirates’ rotation with injuries, Francisco Liriano quietly has assumed the role of a top starter.
On Friday, he allowed just two runs on four hits and became the first Pirates pitcher to throw a complete game this season in a 6-2 win over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
The last Pirates pitcher to throw a complete game was Burnett on July 31, 2012, also at Wrigley Field. Liriano’s only other career complete game was a no-hitter on May 3, 2011, while with Minnesota against the White Sox in — you guessed it — Chicago.
“I just want to stay focused in the game, not try to do too much and just go deep in every game and try to do my job help the team win some games,” Liriano said. “I’m just trying to do my part and, hopefully we can keep playing the way we’re playing right now.”
The Pirates have won seven straight road games for the first time since April 3-17, 2002.
Right fielder Scott Hairston got a fastball down the middle and hit a two-run homer that gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead in the second inning, but Liriano’s mistakes ended there. The Cubs got just two more hits, and Liriano (8-3) recorded his eighth win in 11 starts to tie Jeff Locke for the team lead in victories.
That’s two more wins than Liriano had in 34 games (28 starts) with the Twins and White Sox in 2012, and one shy of matching his total wins in 2011 with Minnesota, when he went 9-10.
Liriano has more wins than any other pitcher in the National League since May 11, when he came off the disabled list and made his Pirates debut. The 29-year-old left-hander said the difference between this season and the recent past is he’s trying to stay calm with men on base.
“I think in the past what got me in trouble was when I got a man on base I was trying to do too much, trying to overthrow and be more nasty than I was, and it didn’t work for me,” said Liriano, who struck out seven and walked four. “Now I just try to stay calm and hit my spot.”
Liriano gave up a double to Starlin Castro in the eighth and walked Cody Ransom in the ninth but said he tried not to think about the complete game.
Manager Clint Hurdle didn’t consider pulling Liriano. They were going to let him go to around 115 pitches, the manager said, and he finished at 111.
“He’s a veteran, he’s a pro. We asked him after the seventh, and he said, ‘I’m good.’ We asked him after the eighth, and he said, ‘I’m good,’ so let him run out there and get it done,” Hurdle said.
The Pirates got to Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija (5-8) for the second time in a row. After falling behind on Hairston’s home run, the Pirates scored three in the third to take a 4-2 lead, including an RBI triple by Neil Walker and a double-steal of second and home by Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen.
Starling Marte extended his hitting streak to 10 games, going 3 for 6 with two runs scored and two stolen bases. Jones was 2 for 4 with a triple and a run scored. Jose Tabata also tripled.
It was the Pirates’ fourth time facing Samardzija this season. The right-hander gave up one run on five hits in 15 innings the first two times they faced, but the Pirates have scored nine runs on 17 hits off him in the past two outings.
“I think having seen him so many times this year, we had a pretty good idea of what he was going to do,” Walker said. “There wasn’t much surprise.”
Karen Price is a former freelancer.