PITTSBURGH -- The Twins used a six-run second inning to build up a big lead against former Minnesota starter Francisco Liriano and held on to beat the Pirates, 8-5, at PNC Park on Tuesday night.
Liriano, who pitched for the Twins from 2005-12, gave up seven runs on five hits, including two homers, in only two innings of work. Minnesota sent nine batters to the plate in the second, when Joe Mauer drove in three runs on a single to left and Trevor Plouffe added two more with a homer to left-center field.
"That start didn't work out well for him," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He'll be back. He'll be better."
Down 8-1 after three innings, the Pirates began to slowly chip away at the Twins' lead. Pedro Alvarez left PNC Park with a solo shot in the fourth, Jung Ho Kang grounded into a run-scoring out in the fifth and Neil Walker doubled in a run in the sixth.
The Pirates managed to get the tying run to the plate in the seventh, but Minnesota reliever Blaine Boyer induced an inning-ending double play to escape the jam. Boyer remained in the game to toss a perfect eighth, running his scoreless streak to 17 2/3 innings.
"A win is a win and we're always happy with that," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "But we had to fight hard considering the fact we got up early. But you look at the scoreboard at the end of the game, they scored one a bunch of times, which is a good sign because we stayed away from the big innings."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Mauer with rare three-run single: With the Twins up 2-0 in the second, Mauer came to the plate with the bases loaded and hit a perfectly placed grounder to left field on a 3-2 pitch from Liriano with the runners going on the pitch. Brian Dozier was able to score all the way from first on the play, as left fielder Starling Marte took his time getting to the ball and was surprised to see Dozier break for home.
"I think he got caught unaware," Hurdle said of Marte. "We know how strong his arm is. Whether his awareness wasn't where it needed to be, but that's not a run we needed to give up right there." More >
Alvarez reaches the river: Alvarez launched a solo homer all the way out of PNC Park and into a small boat parked in the Allegheny River in the fourth inning. The ball traveled 446 feet as tracked by Statcast™. Alvarez's seventh homer of the season was just the third in PNC Park history to land in the river -- even if it technically didn't -- on the fly. More >
Plouffe caps six-run rally with homer: After Mauer cleared the bases with his single, Plouffe promptly connected on a 2-0 fastball from Liriano for a two-run blast to left. It was the second homer of the night for the Twins, as Dozier crushed a solo shot in the first.
"It was a changeup," Plouffe said. "At that point I was just trying to drive the ball. It was 2-0 after a couple of inside fastballs and with a base open, I was just looking for something over the plate."
J-Hay stays hot: After a miserable start at the plate, Pirates third baseman Josh Harrison seems to have hit his stride. Harrison went 12-for-25 on the Bucs' road trip through Philadelphia and Chicago, and he continued to produce Tuesday night. He extended his hitting streak to seven games as he went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI single in the seventh.
"It's baseball. I've put in some work, just like guys are putting in work now. Just a matter of getting back to feeling comfortable," Harrison said. "Been able to repeat some things and be comfortable."
"We've got more guts than good right now. We battle. We're going to fight you. Unfortunately sometimes it's in our own making that we're digging some of these holes. It's been hard since Opening Day. We've learned how to embrace hard. We're not afraid of hard. We just need to play better, execute better." -- Hurdle, on the Pirates' rally falling short
"Going into it, we saw a stat that jumped off the page that 32 percent of his pitches were outside of the strike zone and that's a really low number. So we wanted to be aggressive, but also try to make him throw it over the plate." -- Dozier, on Liriano
CERVELLI EXITS EARLY
Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli left the game after five innings for precautionary reasons. Cervelli took a ball off his mask during the fifth and was replaced behind the plate by backup Chris Stewart in the top of the sixth. Asked after the game if Cervelli was being tested for a concussion, Hurdle said that Cervelli was still going through the "evaluation process" and had no further updates.
"He's laying it out there and he's giving it everything he's got," Hurdle said. "We just felt we're in a position that we needed to be safe."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Alvarez's home run was the 36th to reach the Allegheny River since PNC Park opened in 2001. Alvarez is responsible for three of those river shots, both of them coming in 2013. The other two players who hit a ball into the river on the fly were Daryle Ward -- on a 479-foot blast for the Astros on July 6, 2002 -- and Garrett Jones, who did so for the Pirates on June 2, 2013.
Harrison nearly recorded his fifth homer of the season in the sixth inning, sending a fly ball bouncing into the right-field stands. Harrison's shot was initially ruled a home run, but it was overturned and ruled a double after a one-minute, 17-second review. Harrison had to settle for a leadoff double, and he wound up scoring on a two-out double by Walker.
Twins: Right-hander Mike Pelfrey is set to start in the second game of the two-game series against the Pirates on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. ET/6:05 p.m. CT. The right-hander is coming off his worst start of the year, as he gave up five runs over 4 2/3 innings against the Tigers on Thursday.
Pirates: Left-hander Jeff Locke will look to get back in the win column as the Pirates wrap up their two-game series with the Twins on Wednesday at PNC Park. Locke is winless with a 7.27 ERA in his last five starts. He has pitched well in Interleague Play, however, going 4-1 with a 2.56 ERA in six career starts against the American League.