Liriano notches first win as Pirates blank D-backs
By Barry M. Bloom and Tom Singer
PHOENIX -- The Pirates concluded a pounding of the D-backs this weekend at Chase Field with Sunday's 8-0 victory, their first three-game sweep of a National League West club on the road since 2007 at San Francisco.
On Sunday, it was Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano who shut down the D-backs, losers of four out of five on this current eight-game homestand. He bested right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, who couldn't make it out of the fifth inning.
"Obviously their pitchers pitched well, but we didn't do a very good job offensively, either," said D-backs manager Chip Hale, whose club was swept in the three-game home series for the first time since losing a trio to the Royals last Aug. 5-7 under Kirk Gibson. "I don't want to take any of the credit away from them because they came in here and played very well."
Liriano's first career win against Arizona gave him wins over all 29 teams he has faced. He has yet to take the mound against the Marlins -- but a win over them would make him one of 14 pitchers to defeat each of the 30 MLB clubs.
Liriano held the D-backs to two hits. He walked six and whiffed seven and was taken out with one out in the seventh. Meanwhile, Pedro Alvarez had a two-run first-inning single and Neil Walker a two-run fifth-inning double, both off Hellickson, who allowed seven hits, walked two and struck out six in 4 2/3 innings.
"We got two big swings of the bat, from Alvarez and Walker, and were able to add on later," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, whose club held a 14-2 scoring edge in the series.
Walker had seven hits -- four of them doubles -- in the series as the Pirates stretched their winning streak to five. The D-backs scored two runs in the three games and the top five hitters in their lineup failed to drive in a run in any of them.
"A sweep wasn't in our minds," Hurdle said. "We were approaching it one pitch, one game at a time, and wound up building some momentum. We're just playing better baseball, and it continues to start with our mound work."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Hellickson can't quite get out of it: The Bucs loaded the bases with none out in the first inning and the D-backs right-hander dug in, getting Walker to pop out foul and Starling Marte to strike out. Hellickson had Alvarez at 1-2 before going to a full count. Alvarez then grounded a single to right, scoring a pair of runs.
Conversely, the D-backs had Liriano on the ropes: In the bottom of the first, the D-backs had three baserunners. Ender Inciarte was thrown out at second by Marte, trying to stretch on a leadoff single to left. With two out, Liriano walked Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo, but Yasmany Tomas struck out swinging to end the threat.
Polanco lights the fuse: The Pirates' two scoring rallies had one thing in common -- Gregory Polanco. He helped set the table with singles in both the first and fifth innings, and currently is the most consistent hitter in the Bucs' vaunted outfield.
A Hughes pitch from Mr. Economy:Jared Hughes entered familiar territory in the seventh inning -- trouble, two on and one out -- with familiar results -- two pitches, two outs on an inning-ending double play.
"As I always say, overreaction is never a good reaction." -- Hurdle, no fan of the DH, on a new wave of support for introducing the DH to the NL in the wake of Adam Wainwright's injury while batting
"My stuff was OK. I really didn't have command of my fastball early. I've just got to be better than that in the first inning. My command just wasn't there. I have to start with not letting that leadoff guy get on and stop walking guys, just make better pitches in general." -- Hellickson on his problems Sunday, particularly in a two-run Pirates first inning.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
A streak of nine quality starts for the D-backs came to an end on Sunday with Hellickson's performance -- their longest such stretch since 11 consecutive from Sept. 12-22, 2008. During the current just-concluded streak, the starters were 3-2 with a 2.07 ERA and gave up only one home run.
Liriano earned the ninth win of the season by a Pirates starter. A year ago, the Bucs' rotation did not claim its ninth victory until May 30 as Pittsburgh relievers claimed 16 wins.
With D-backs runners on first and second, one out and Hellickson at the plate in the bottom of the second, the pitcher squared around to bunt. Catcher Chris Stewart took the pitch from Liriano and fired down to second base, trying to pick off Jordan Pacheco. Second-base umpire Tony Randazzo called the runner safe. After a 28-second review, the call was overturned and Pacheco was out.
Tomas led off the D-backs' half of the fourth with a ground ball deep to short that was bobbled by Jordy Mercer, who made a long throw to first, seemingly nipping Tomas before he hit the base, umpire Phil Cuzzi signaled. Hale asked for the replay and after a 29-second review, the call was overturned, Tomas was deemed safe and Mercer was charged with an error.
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates:Vance Worley leads the Bucs into Chicago, where they will meet the Cubs in Monday's 8:05 p.m. ET opener of a three-game Wrigley Field series. The teams split a four-game series last week in Pittsburgh, with Worley out-pitching Jason Hammel in one of the games. The two righties have a rematch Monday.
D-backs: Arizona opens a three-game series at Chase Field on Monday at 6:40 p.m. PT against the Rockies. This is the first time the two National League West rivals meet this season. Arizona has already faced the Giants, Dodgers and Padres. Tyler Matzek, who was scheduled to start Sunday instead will oppose the D-backs Monday at Arizona because of Sunday's rainout in Denver. Matzek is 1-0 with a 2.40 ERA. Kendrick pitches now in Tuesday.