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