Tuesday, September 23, 2014
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Liriano helps Pirates shut out Braves

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[September 23, 2014]  ATLANTA -- Francisco Liriano did not have his best stuff on Monday, but that did not seem to matter against the light-hitting Atlanta Braves.

The Pirates left-hander, making his first career appearance at Turner Field, battled spells of wildness and still pitched six shutout innings in a 1-0 win over the Atlanta Braves.

Liriano (7-10) allowed only three hits and walked four on the cool, windy evening. He struck out seven and helped the Pirates reduce their magic number for clinching a playoff spot to two games over the Milwaukee Brewers, who were idle.

"At the end of the night, three hits, no runs and you're thinking, 'I'm taking him out?'" Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Fact of the matter was, seven three-ball counts, underneath a lot of counts, he was able to use the fastball inside to right-handers, which opened up some swing and miss stuff for him down."

Liriano got the only run he needed from center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who led off the sixth inning against Atlanta starter Aaron Harang with a line-drive homer, his 24th, into the left-center field bleachers. It was McCutchen's first homer since Sept. 10.

"He was effectively wild," Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Liriano. "He'd get deep in the count and he'd throw that back-door slider and lock them up."

Liriano has allowed just one earned run over his last 28 innings of work dating back to Aug. 31 and has given up two runs or fewer in 12 of his last 13 starts.

The Pirates bullpen pitched three scoreless innings to close the game. Jared Hughes, John Holdzkom and Mark Melancon each worked one inning, with Melancon earning his 32nd save.

Melancon allowed Atlanta shortstop Andrelton Simmons to reach base with two outs in the ninth when he misplayed a comebacker. But the right-hander came back to strike out center fielder B.J. Upton to end the game.

"Our pitching has been fantastic, played good defense and a big swing from McCutchen," Hurdle said. "Saw a lot pitches and were not able to get much done on offense, but got enough."

It was the third straight 1-0 game for the Pirates, the first time that's happened since 1917. The Pirates have won their last two games 1-0. It was the seventh shutout for the Pirates this season.

"We always talk about scoring one more run than the other team and the last three games we did it twice," Hurdle said.

Harang (11-12) pitched seven strong innings, struck out seven, walked two and allowed just four hits. The Braves have scored no runs in four of Harang's last five starts. Jordan Walden and Craig Kimbrel kept the game close by throwing one scoreless inning apiece.

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"You can't ask for any more," Gonzalez said. "He pitched a helluva game. He gave up the solo home run and their bullpen made it stick."

First baseman Freddie Freeman had two hits for the Braves, who were shutout for the 16th time. Atlanta has lost four straight and 12 of its last 14. The Braves are 4-16 and have been shutout six times in September.

Pittsburgh catcher Russell Martin extended his hitting streak to 13 games and third baseman Josh Harrison extended his hitting streak to 10 games.

Neither team could score early, although both had chances.

The Pirates had runners on first and second to lead off the second inning, but Harang struck out the next three batters he faced to end the threat.

The Braves had runners at first and second in the first inning, and runners on first and third with two outs in the fourth, but stalled out each time.

NOTES: Atlanta fired general manager Frank Wren, who held the job for seven seasons. A committee of team president John Schuerholz, former GM and manager Bobby Cox and former Texas and Cleveland GM John Hart, hired last fall as a special assistant, will make the decision on the new hire. Hart, a two-time major league executive of the year, said he does not want the job. ... Atlanta C Evan Gattis (kidney stones) and RF Jason Heyward (bruised left thumb) were not in the starting lineup again. Gattis hasn't started since Sept. 7 and Heyward hasn't started since Sept. 19. Gattis did pinch-hit on Monday and struck out. ... Pittsburgh 3B Pedro Alvarez (stress fracture left foot) is expected to be ready for the playoffs. ... LHP Francisco Liriano made his first career start at Turner Field on Monday. He has appeared in every current major league ballpark except Marlins Stadium. ... The teams play the second of a four-game series on Tuesday. Starting pitchers are Pittsburgh RHP Gerrit Cole (10-5) and Atlanta LHP Alex Wood (11-10).

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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