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Pirates offense sputters in loss to Twins

Josh Willingham homered and the Pirates only managed one run as the Bucs fell short to Minnesota to end their three game winning streak.

So much for offense.

Pittsburgh posted 25 runs in their previous three games but couldn’t put up the three tallies necessary to handle the Minnesota Twins tonight.

Francisco Liriano out-dueled Erik Bedard and Minnesota out-lasted Pittsburgh 2-1 to even the series at one.

The outing may have ended well for Erik Bedard, but it didn’t start that way.

After two quick Twins outs Josh Willingham doubled to center field and Justin Morneau walked to put two runners aboard.

Taking advantage was Trevor Plouffe, who drove home Willingham before Brian Dozier followed with a walk of his own. Jamey Carroll had a chance to extend the lead but Bedard cauterized the wound by snagging his line drive back to the mound.

“The game is funny sometimes. We had two outs and an 0-2 count on [the next two batters] but they get by and all the sudden they get a single and scored a run,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said of the first inning theme. “That inning gets extended and nothing really looks connected.”

Josh Harrison doubled in the bottom of the first to answer but the Pirates could muster nothing more.

Fifteen consecutive batters were retired after the two bag hit and the teams only managed to combine for three hits in the fourth and fifth innings.

“He was throwing a lot of strikes. We tried to show some patience,” Hurdle said of Liriano. “He pitched an exceptional ball game. This guy was much better than anything we had seen previously.”

It wasn’t until the sixth that Pittsburgh threatened.

Matt Hague, pinch hitting for Bedard, singled and Jose Tabata moved him to second on a sacrifice bunt.

The uprising was quickly muffled, however, when Hague was caught in a rundown and Casey McGehee struck out.

While the offense generated little though the first six innings Bedard bounced back from his recent shelling at Baltimore. The 33-year-old lefthander allowed just four hits and struck out seven in his 14th start of the season.

“I didn’t change anything [from the first inning],” Bedard said. “I got two quick outs in the first, I just couldn’t get the last one. I just kept throwing strikes and I got a few guys out.”

Bedard has been an ace at home this season, allowing more than two earned runs in just one of his six starts at PNC Park on the year.

It took nearly seven full innings, but the Pirates finally crossed home plate thanks to Liriano’s increasingly wild pitching.

The Minnesota starter sandwiched a Pedro Alvarez plunking and Michael McKenry walk around a Clint Barmes single to load the bases for Rod Barajas. Only Denard Span’s diving catch in centerfield kept Pittsburgh from taking a lead. Barajas’ sacrifice fly tied the game at one before the Bucs exited the inning on a Tabata ground out.

Any momentum the Pirates developed was halted two batters later. Willingham ripped his 14th homer of the year off Bucs reliever Jason Grilli to put Minnesota back in front 2-1.

“Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you make bad pitches. Today I didn’t do what I wanted to do with it and I paid for it,” Grilli said of the home run. “It’s unfortunate because we are in a lot of one run games and I have been able to handle the situation for the most part.”

The lead would be enough for Minnesota.

PNC Park will host the rubber match tomorrow night at 7:05 when the Pirates James McDonald faces Liam Hendriks.

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