Home Pittsburgh Sports College Football Pirates return to PNC Park with authority, beat Cards 9-2

Pirates return to PNC Park with authority, beat Cards 9-2

The Pittsburgh Pirates played at PNC Park for the first time in over two weeks, and opened an 11-game homestand with a 9-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. Francisco Liriano (11-4) worked seven magnificent innings, and allowed just one run on four hits and two walks while he struck out eight Cardinal hitters.

Liriano’s outing was accompanied by an efficient offensive effort as the Bucs bats produced nine runs on nine hits.  The victory follows a road trip that saw the Pirates go 5-5 after the All-Star Break and drop series in both Cincinnati and Miami.

“I liked the way our guys responded in the first inning, right away against a very good pitcher,” manager Clint Hurdle said.

The Pirates kicked off the offense as Hurdle stated, right away in the first inning after Pittsburgh had difficulty solving Miami phenom Jose Fernandez Sunday. Andrew McCutchen knocked Jose Tabata in from second after he walked to lead off the game and Neil Walker was hit by a pitch.

Pedro Alvarez followed with his 27th home run of the season to give the Pirates an early 4-0 lead.

“We went out, we were able to answer the bell. Pedro gave us a quick start, actually the top of the lineup—Tabata’s had some success against Westbrook—the two guys set the table, Andrew answers with a clean single, Pedro continues to work his way into more of a comfort zone in that clean-up spot,” Hurdle said.

From there, Liriano took control as he retired the first 10 men he faced in the game and the Cardinals did not possess a baserunner until the fourth inning when Carlos Beltran singled with one out. The early run support took the pressure of the starter and allowed him to focus on making one pitch at a time.

“It’s a great feeling [to get support], we scored four in the first inning and it was early in the game so I can make sure that I take one pitch at a time, one hitter at a time and not try and do too much,” Liriano said.

St. Louis scored a run in the sixth when Tony Cruz pinch-hit for Westbrook and tripled to right-center, as the ball eluded a diving McCutchen. Matt Carpenter then singled to left-center to score Cruz.

But Liriano put his foot down the rest of the way, and prevented the Cardinals from scoring again over the rest of his start.

“I think everything [was working], location-wise my fastball is getting a lot better and my changeup too,” Liriano said. “Everything was working for me tonight and the guys behind me made some great plays for me.”

As Liriano exited, the Pirates scored another five runs in the bottom of the seventh to all but insure Liriano’s victory.

The Bucs loaded the bases with one out, and Gaby Sanchez hit a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Neil Walker. Alex Presley followed with a single to score McCutchen from second, Clint Barmes doubled for the second time Monday to score Martin and Presley, and Marte singled Barmes home from second.

When the dust settled, the Pirates led 9-1 and the ball was sent to the bullpen.

“It’s something we’ve done before and haven’t done it consistently or as much as the Cardinals have been doing but we know that we’re capable of doing it and it’s fun,” McCutchen said about the offense. “We’ve just got to keep taking it pitch-by-pitch, game-by-game, that’s all we can do.”

Tony Watson worked a perfect eighth, but Vic Black loaded the bases with one out in the ninth. Black then struck out pinch-hitter Matt Adams and Daniel Descalso flew out to center to erase any unease at PNC Park.

The victory moves the Pirates to within half a game of the Cardinals, and with four games remaining, some see this as the most important series for the team to-date this season. But, as Hurdle has maintained since the Pirates were in Bradenton, the team will continue to play one game at time.

“There’s a degree of importance to us, I think there’s a degree of importance to everybody else. There seems to be a larger degree of importance outside of the clubhouse, and we get that,” Hurdle said. “But we’re not going to change. This is what’s worked for us, we believe this is what’s going to continue to work for us.”

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