Chicago at Pittsburgh

Scoreboard
Chi. Cubs (18-27)000000000041
Pittsburgh (28-18) «10000000x132

Liriano (3-0) pitches gem, Pirates edge Cubs

CBSSports.com wire reports
  •  

PITTSBURGH -- Francisco Liriano's fastball is going where he wants it to. The Pittsburgh Pirates are following suit.

The veteran left-hander continued his torrid start, scattering two hits over seven innings and the Pirates edged the Chicago Cubs 1-0 on Wednesday night.

Liriano (3-0) struck out nine and walked only one to remain unbeaten since making his season debut against the New York Mets two weeks ago.

"What was it, one walk, nine punchouts and two hits?" Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "Man, that's clean stuff."

You won't find the Cubs arguing after Liriano escaped a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the third inning unscathed and then cruised. The Cubs went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position and are hitting just .160 (4 of 25) with runners on base during their three-game losing streak.

"It's the same old song and dance," Chicago manager Dale Sveum said. "We get people on but can't get them in."

Mark Melancon survived a bumpy ninth inning for his first save of the season. The Pirates were forced to sit closer Jason Grilli -- whose 18 saves lead the majors -- after he labored through 34 pitches in a 5-4 victory on Tuesday.

The road to Melancon's first save since Aug. 26, 2012, while pitching for Boston wasn't exactly smooth.

The Cubs put runners on first and second with one out but couldn't tie things up. Melancon, who has served as the primary setup man this season, didn't feel any extra jitters getting the last three outs.

"I do it every night, it's just in the eighth inning instead of the ninth," Melancon said.

Andrew McCutchen doubled twice for the Pirates and scored the game's only run on an RBI single by Garrett Jones in the first. Pittsburgh has won 10 of 12 to move 10 games over .500 (28-18). The Pirates have also won six consecutive one-run games.

"I love the way we're going about our business," Hurdle said.

Chicago's Jeff Samardzija (2-6) nearly matched Liriano pitch for pitch, giving up just three hits in seven innings, but received little help once again.

The Cubs have scored just 10 runs in Samardzija's losses. The right-hander's only issue came in the first when McCutchen doubled with two outs then scored on a single by Jones.

It would be all the cushion the Pirates needed while Samardzija lost a 1-0 decision for the second time in a month.

"You take it with a grain of salt," said Samardzija, who walked one and struck out eight. "That's just the way the game goes sometimes. You give up five runs and get a win sometimes."

Or, in the case of the Pirates, whenever Liriano is on the mound.

The Pirates agreed to terms with the former All-Star in December, but Liriano signed a more incentive-laden deal after breaking his right (non-throwing) arm in a freak accident on Christmas Day.

It's certainly looking like a bargain now. The left-hander has spent most of the five seasons attempting to regain the form he showed as a 22-year-old phenom with the Minnesota Twins in 2006, when he went 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA and made the All-Star team on his way to finishing third in American League Rookie of the Year voting.

His path to stardom was sidetracked by Tommy John surgery in 2007, though he appears to have found a home in Pittsburgh.

Mixing his offspeed stuff with a rejuvenated fastball refined by a tweak to his delivery, Liriano has joined A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez in giving the Pirates a respectable top of the rotation.

"I think I work hard in the offseason, location-wise with my fastball and everything is working so far," Liriano said. "Pitching is all about location so when you can locate your pitches, you have better results."

He was solid in his first two starts in victories against the Mets and Milwaukee. He was spectacular at times against the Cubs. He retired 14 of 15 batters at one point and managed to expertly wiggle out of the lone spot of trouble in the third when the Cubs loaded the bases with no outs following a Cody Ransom single, a walk and an error.

In a way, Liriano had the Cubs right where he wanted them.

Chicago began the night hitting only .218 with runners in scoring position, the second-lowest in the majors.

The number dropped a bit more after Julio Borbon hit into a fielders' choice, Starlin Castro struck out and Anthony Rizzo flew out to right to end the threat.

No Cub made it to third base over Liriano's final four innings and Pittsburgh's bullpen made it hold up. The Pirates are 21-1 when leading after seven innings this season.

Tony Watson worked the eighth and the Cubs made Melancon work in the ninth.

Alfonso Soriano reached on strikeout-wild pitch and Wellington Castillo singled with one out. Nate Schierholtz and Darwin Barney both lofted weak fly balls to shallow right field that Pittsburgh second baseman Neil Walker corralled with ease.

Notes

  • Chicago's Darwin Barney, who went 4 for 4 in the series opener on Tuesday to raise his average from .192 to .223, went 0 for 3.
  • Pittsburgh's left-handed starters are 8-1 at PNC Park this season.
  • The series will wrap up on Thursday. Jeanmar Gomez (2-0, 2.78 ERA) will make his first start against the Cubs. Edwin Jackson (1-6 5.76) will start for Chicago. Jackson is 4-1 with a 3.09 ERA against the Pirates in his career.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Francisco Liriano (3-0, 1.00 ERA) has been almost unhittable in his first three starts as a Pittsburgh Pirate.  (USATSI)
Francisco Liriano (3-0, 1.00 ERA) has been almost unhittable in his first three starts as a Pittsburgh Pirate. (USATSI)

Players of the Game
Pittsburgh

F. Liriano
IP 7.0
H 2
ER 0
BB 1
K 9
Chicago

J. Samardzija
IP 7.0
H 3
ER 1
BB 1
K 8
 

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Chicago Cubs
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Julio Borbon, CF4010013 .219
    Carlos Villanueva, P0000000 .176
Starlin Castro, SS4000014 .266
Anthony Rizzo, 1B4000034 .261
Alfonso Soriano, LF4000030 .264
Scott Hairston, RF3000000 .109
   a- Nate Schierholtz, PH1000001 .282
Welington Castillo, C4020011 .292
Cody Ransom, 3B3010022 .246
   b- Ryan Sweeney, PH1000002 .333
Darwin Barney, 2B3000103 .217
Jeff Samardzija, P1000000 .118
   c- David DeJesus, PH-CF1000000 .297
Totals33040111  
a-hit into fielder's choice for Hairston in the 9th
b-popped out for Ransom in the 9th
c-flied out for Samardzija in the 8th
Batting
SH - Jeff Samardzija (5)
SB - Julio Borbon (4, 2nd base off Watson/Martin)
Team LOB - 8
Fielding
DP - Castro-Rizzo
E - Starlin Castro (7, Misplayed grounder)
Chicago Cubs
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Jeff Samardzija (L,2-6) 7311180 3.25
Carlos Villanueva 1000100 3.86
WP - Jeff Samardzija (7)
Pitches-Strikes - Jeff Samardzija 111-73, Carlos Villanueva 14-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jeff Samardzija 8-6, Carlos Villanueva 2-1
Batters Faced - Jeff Samardzija 26, Carlos Villanueva 4
Pittsburgh Pirates
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Starling Marte, LF3000011 .304
Travis Snider, RF4000011 .268
Andrew McCutchen, CF4120011 .280
Garrett Jones, 1B2011111 .286
    Gaby Sanchez, 1B0000000 .244
Neil Walker, 2B3000013 .234
Russell Martin, C3000001 .262
Pedro Alvarez, 3B3000020 .193
Jordy Mercer, SS3000010 .261
Francisco Liriano, P2000001 .000
    Tony Watson, P0000000 .000
   a- Jose Tabata, PH0000100 .278
    Mark Melancon, P0000000 .000
Totals2713128  
a-walked for Watson in the 8th
Batting
2B - Andrew McCutchen 2 (14, Samardzija, Samardzija)
SH - Starling Marte (2)
RBI - Garrett Jones (25)
2-OUT RBI - Garrett Jones (9)
SB - Andrew McCutchen (10, 2nd base off Samardzija/Castillo)
Team LOB - 5
Fielding
E - Francisco Liriano (1, Throwing), Jordy Mercer (2, Misplayed grounder)
Pittsburgh Pirates
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Francisco Liriano (W,3-0) 7200190 1.00
Tony Watson (H,8) 1100010 4.98
Mark Melancon (S,1) 1100010 0.72
WP - Mark Melancon (1)
Pitches-Strikes - Francisco Liriano 91-59, Tony Watson 20-12, Mark Melancon 22-13
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Francisco Liriano 9-5, Mark Melancon 1-2
Batters Faced - Francisco Liriano 26, Tony Watson 4, Mark Melancon 5
Game Information
Attendance - 12675
Game Time - 2:45
Temperature - 72
Umpires - Home - Mike Winters, First Base - Mark Wegner, Second Base - Laz Diaz, Third Base - Tim Timmons