Friday, September 12, 2014
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Liriano leads Pirates past Phillies

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[September 12, 2014]  PHILADELPHIA -- Francisco Liriano has begun to regain the form he flashed a year ago, and the Pittsburgh Pirates are reaping the benefits.

Liriano, in what manager Clint Hurdle said, "could've been his best start by far this season," pitched eight shutout innings to win his second straight game Thursday night, as the Pirates beat the Philadelphia Phillies 4-1.

Liriano allowed four hits and struck out a season-high 12, while walking two.

"Today was obviously the best I've seen him in a long time," Pirates catcher Russell Martin said. "It's encouraging."

Losing pitcher A.J. Burnett, a former Pirate, agreed that it was the sharpest he's seen Liriano in a while.

"When his off-speed is on," he said, "he has that kind of night."

Liriano, 16-8 in 2013, was 1-7 with a 4.72 ERA before the All-Star break this season, but since then is 4-3 with a 2.22 ERA to improve to 5-10 overall. He has been particularly effective over his last four starts, going 2-0 with a 0.67 ERA.

"Lately he's been back to where he left off last year -- just dominating everybody," Martin said. "Good time for that."

Liriano, who retired 10 straight hitters between the third and the sixth, extended his scoreless-innings streak to 16. He attributed his turnaround to "just being healthy and being in the pennant race."

"I like to compete and go out there and do the best I can, and do anything I can to keep the team in the ballgame," he said. "I just try to go out there and do my job. ... Every start, everything's getting better, location-wise."

Second baseman Neil Walker went 2-for-3 with an RBI for Pittsburgh, which won for the sixth time in seven games. Already leading the race for the National League's second wild-card berth, they closed to within 2 1/2 games of the first-place St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central.

The Cards lost to the Cincinnati Reds earlier in the day, 1-0.

The Pirates closed out a 10-game road trip with a 6-4 record, and won for the third time in a four-game series against Philadelphia. They went 12-4 this season against the Phillies.

Catcher Carlos Ruiz drove in the lone Philadelphia run with a ninth-inning single. The Phillies have dropped four of five.

Jared Hughes relieved Liriano and allowed a hit and a walk to open the ninth, then gave way to Mark Melancon. He struck out left fielder Darin Ruf but allowed Ruiz's RBI hit before retiring the last two hitters to earn his 29th save.

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Burnett (8-16) went six innings and allowed four runs and six hits, while striking out seven and walking three. The 16 losses are a career high for the 37-year-old right-hander.

Pittsburgh first baseman Ike Davis singled home Martin with the game's first run, with one out in the second inning.

Pittsburgh added three runs in the sixth, with the key blows an RBI double by Walker, a sacrifice fly by Martin and a run-scoring single by right fielder Gregory Polanco.

"I threw too many balls over the plate," Burnett said. "The pitch to Walker was right over. ... I didn't put guys away tonight. That's basically the story."

NOTES: Pittsburgh 3B Josh Harrison, who began the night leading the National League in hitting, went 0-for-5, leaving his average at .314. ... Pirates CF Andrew McCutchen, 1-for-4 in the game, has hit safely in six of his last seven games, and 10 of his last 11 against the Phillies. ... Philadelphia CF Ben Revere ended a season-worst 0-for-14 slump with a sixth-inning single. ... Phillies OF Domonic Brown did not play, though manager Ryne Sandberg said that was because a left-hander started for Pittsburgh, not because Brown injured his shoulder in a fall during Wednesday night's game. ... Sandberg also said SS Jimmy Rollins, who missed his third straight game with a slight strain of his left hamstring, is "progressing" but offered no timetable as to when Rollins might return. Rather, the manager said, Rollins remains day to day. ... Phillies 2B Cesar Hernandez made his eighth start of the season, as Chase Utley was rested. Utley struck out as a pinch hitter in the ninth. ... The inside-the-park home run hit by McCutchen on Wednesday was the first by a visiting player in Citizens Bank Park, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Utley and Rollins are the only Phillies to hit inside-the-parkers in the 11-year-old stadium.

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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