Rare hittable blip costs Liriano, Pirates

Lefty allows four hits in fifth during otherwise strong start vs. Phillies

Rare hittable blip costs Liriano, Pirates

PHILADELPHIA -- Clint Hurdle would call it "the beauty of the game," that unpredictability that fascinates us about and enthralls us with baseball.

Late Wednesday night, at the end of the Pirates' 3-2 loss to the Phillies, Francisco Liriano might have had a less romantic word for that unpredictability.

Liriano, one of the hardest pitchers to get a hit off, went up against a Phillies lineup that hardly gets hits. That's a fact of the stats, which show Philadelphia still last in the Majors in scoring.

So in the fifth inning, in his first opportunity of the night to work with a lead, Liriano surrendered four hits that proved decisive.

"Balls found grass," Hurdle, the Pirates' manager, summed up succinctly.

"They found a hole a couple of times. I tried to make pitches. It didn't work," Liriano said.

Liriano had made six prior starts, and in four of them, he gave up fewer than four hits, and in another, he allowed exactly four.

"The ball was a little elevated that inning," said Hurdle, who could also pick apart the defense that inning behind his lefty. "The catcher [Carlos Ruiz] got to second base [for a double] when we hesitated to get a throw off, [Cesar] Hernandez carved one into right, then the ball [by Freddy Galvis] down the line [plopping at right fielder Corey Hart's feet]."

"I feel great, physically and mentally," Liriano said after his record dropped to 1-3 despite an ERA of 2.96. "I think I made some good pitches, and they still found holes. Couple bloop singles ... nothing more you can do about it. It's a 'hang with 'em.'"

Sometimes, Liriano owns up to faulty pitching. On bad days, he can be the classic missed-my-spots guy. This wasn't one of those days. You got the sense he got beat with some of his best stuff.

"You don't want to give up hits in any way, but it feels a little better when you make your pitch," he conceded. "Missing a spot is a mistake. But when you hit your spot and they still get a hit ... that's just a good hitter. It's part of the game."

And baseball played its unpredictable part well Wednesday night.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.