Liriano tossed 80 pitches in just three innings, giving up four runs, seven hits, walking two and hitting a batter. He was checked out by the training staff in the third, but he remained in the game. Manager Clint Hurdle said Liriano was pulled because he was ineffective, not because he was hurt.
“Didn’t have anything going today…really rough week for me,” Liriano said.
Dodgers’ starter Mat Latos was pulled after four innings of six run ball, giving up seven hits and two home runs. He did not strike out a batter as he fell to 4-8 on the year.
Joe Blanton (1-0) picked up his first win as a Pirate while Mark Melancon recorded his MLB-leading 35th save.
Both teams jumped out early and often out of the gates. The Dodgers struck first when an RBI single from Scott Van Slyke scored Howie Kendrick to give the road team a quick 1-0 lead. They would go on to load the bases, but Liriano was able to escape any further damage.
The Pirates responded later in the frame when Andrew McCutchen ended an 11 pitch at-bat with a bloop single to center to score Starling Marte.
Latos got his team going in the top of the second with a base hit to left with one out before coming around to score on Adrian Gonzalez’s two out single to make it 2-1 Dodgers. Liriano matched his opponent in the bottom of the second in a big way when he snuck a flyball just over the leftfield wall for a three-run shot. His first career homer gave Pittsburgh a 4-2 advantage.
“That was like Haley’s Comet,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “I always kid him, ‘Can I see a homer in my lifetime (with) as many as we’ve seen in BP?’”
The Dodgers responded in the top of the third with a two-run shot to center from Kike Hernandez to knot the game at four, but once again, the Pirates rallied again later in the inning. McCutchen opened the home half with a double before stealing third and coming home on a an rbi groundout by Jung Ho Kang. Neil Walker tacked on with a monster shot over the Clemente Wall to extend the lead to 6-4.
After the explosion of offense early on, both teams’ bullpens controlled the game from there. Blanton tossed three scoreless innings before handing the ball over to Joakim Soria, Tony Watson and Mark Melancon. Soria and Watson both posted scoreless frames before Melancon took the rubber, but the Pirates’ closer came dangerously close to blowing the save. After allowing a leadoff hit to Kendrick, Van Slyke lined a ball just out of the range of McCutchen’s glove and wound up with an RBI double to make it 6-5 with only one out.
Yasiel Puig followed the hit with a sharp grounder to Kang, but the third baseman’s throw appeared to pull Sean Rodriguez off the first base bag. Hurdle would challenge the play and it was overturned after the review. It was one of three reviews that Hurdle won.
“I don’t remember going out for three reviews and winning all three. It speaks to the importance of it…today was one of those outliers,” Hurdle said.
Melancon finally ended the inning when he got catcher Yasmani Grandal to go down swinging with two on to record his 33rd consecutive save.
Charlie Morton (7-4, 4.19) will face Alex Wood (7-7, 3.65) as the Pirates go for their MLB-leading 12th sweep Sunday at 8:05 p.m..
1. This is the first time since 2003 that the Pirates have had two pitchers homer in a season. A.J. Burnett homered on July 12 this season, and Kip Wells and Jeff D’Amico homered in 2003.
2. McCutchen became the 29th player in team history to reach 1,100 career hits. He’s the first to reach this mark since Jack Wilson in 2007.
3. The Pirates improved to 13-2 against the NL West overall and are 5-0 at home.