PITTSBURGH – “There were a lot of different things that happened out there tonight that complicated things at times,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “They were able to stay in front of it, get outs when we needed them, add on runs when we needed them.”
Liriano improved to 9-6 after tossing 5.1 innings of seven hit ball, allowing two unearned runs and striking out five. Giants’ starter Ryan Vogelsong was chased after just 3.1 innings, surrendering three runs on seven hits and walking four in the loss (9-9).
The Pirates jumped on their former starter in the first, opening the bottom of the frame by loading the bases with one out. Jung Ho Kang kicked off the scoring with an RBI walk and Neil Walker tacked on with a hard shot to right to make it 2-0. Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen scored on the two plays, respectively. Alvarez added a sacrifice fly to plate Aramis Ramirez to cap the inning at three runs.
While Liriano pitched well, his defense did not back him up. After allowing a one-out single to Matt Duffy in the fifth, Liriano got Buster Posey to pop-up to the right side, but a miscommunication between Alvarez and Neil Walker allowed the ball to drop before Walker threw it away trying to get the runner at second. Marlon Byrd followed with a weak grounder to Ramirez who scooped it and threw to first, but Alvarez couldn’t make the play, allowing Duffy to score.
Alvarez made a second costly error in the sixth when he allowed a grounder from Gregor Blanco to go through his legs to put the speedy outfielder at second with one out. Liriano did not record another out, allowing pinch-hitter Juan Perez to single and Nori Aoki to knock home a run to make it 3-2.
“I just focus on the next hitter,” Liriano said. “It can happen sometimes.”
Arquimedes Caminero was able to bail his starter out, inducing the inning-ending 4-6-3 double-play that was upheld after a review.
McCutchen responded with a solo shot (19) in the bottom of the sixth to extend the lead back to two and Alvarez had a moment of redemption in the bottom of the seventh with an opposite field shot to left (20), making it 5-2 Bucs.
The last Giants’ rally occurred in the seventh when Andrew Susac drew a two-out walk and Brandon Crawford roped a book-rule double into the notch in left. With lefty Brandon Belt pinch-hitting, Joakim Soria’s 30th pitch resulted in the inning-ending flyout that he was hoping for, keeping the lead in tact.
Tony Watson tossed a perfect top of the eighth for a hold and Mark Melancon matched his predecessor with a 1-2-3 ninth for his 39th save of the year. Those innings were the only time a team went down in order all night.
The Pirates will travel to Miami to start a four game series Monday night. J.A. Happ (1-1, 2.87) will opposed Tom Koehler (8-11, 4.02) at 7:10.
1. With a stolen base in the fourth, Marte became the first player in the majors this season to hit 15 home runs and swipe 25 bags.
2. The Pirates improved to 3-0 on Sunday Night Baseball this season. The next time they are the Sunday Game of the Week is September 6 at St. Louis.
3. Entering the series, Aoki had struck out only once since June 3. Pirates’ pitchers fanned the outfielder once every game this series.
Jordy Mercer was activated from his rehab assignment in AAA Indianapolis. Travis Ishikawa was placed on the 15-day DL with back spasms to clear a roster spot.
“The ovation I got was really awesome,” Mercer said. “Means a whole bunch.”