Pirates sweep Giants behind Liriano's gem

Pirates sweep Giants behind Liriano's gem

SAN FRANCISCO -- Jordy Mercer snapped a tie with a leadoff homer in the fifth, his second in as many games, before he and the rest of the Pirates offense broke up a tight game to score a 5-2 win over the Giants and complete their first series sweep in AT&T Park since 2007.

All three wins were of the comeback variety. The Giants had taken 2-0 leads in the first inning of each of the first two games and briefly led 1-0 Wednesday.

"We played a very good ballclub and they were able to get ahead of us three days in a row," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "But we were able to scratch back and play a little better than them."

Francisco Liriano pitched four-hit ball through seven innings in lowering his road ERA in six starts to 1.52, then Jared Hughes worked his way out of a jam after Nori Aoki and Joe Panik led off the eighth with singles. The Bucs added three runs in the ninth, when Mercer's double set up a two-run, pinch-hit double by Pittsburgh's other shortstop, Jung Ho Kang.

Giants starter Tim Hudson allowed seven hits and two runs in seven innings in being dealt another frustrating loss by the Bucs, his sixth in his last seven decisions against Pittsburgh since 2010. He went at least seven innings without giving up more than three runs for the fourth time in that stretch.

Hudson's stellar outing

Tabata comes through: Making only his second start of the season for the Pirates, Jose Tabata made it count, punctuating a three-hit flurry in the third inning with a two-out RBI single that tied it at 1. Later, in the ninth, Tabata again singled to trigger a three-run rally.

Tabata's RBI single

Helping his cause: The Giants were held hitless until two outs in the third inning, when Hudson belted a ground-rule double to left-center. The ball landed just before Tabata was able to make a play on the warning track, then it bounced up into the bleachers. Hudson eventually came around to score San Francisco's first run when Panik hit a soft RBI single to left.

Tabata slams into wall, stays in

Too little, too late: The Giants made things interesting in the ninth inning by connecting on three straight singles to load the bases. But Mark Melancon came in and shut the door, inducing an RBI groundout from Brandon Crawford before getting Aoki to ground out to end the game.

Melancon secures the victory

"We may have to nail him to the bag. He's a little aggressive at times. I should have put the hold on, but I didn't think he was going to go there with Angel [Pagan] up and two outs. But I'll talk to him about it." -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy on Aoki getting caught stealing to end the third inning.

"It's too early to tell. I just like the fact we've been able to turn our season in a much better direction than where it was two weeks ago." -- Hurdle, following the Pirates' 11th win in 13 games, on whether a sweep of the Giants could be the tipping point of their season.

Modern baseball managers always talk about "shortening the game," and that's what the Pirates have been able to do with their dynamite bullpen end-game, essentially trimming it to seven innings. With a lead after the seventh, the Bucs improved to 28-1.

The Pirates escaped a jam in the third inning when Francisco Cervelli threw out Aoki trying to steal third base. With Pagan up and two outs, Aoki broke for third but was tagged out by Josh Harrison on a close play. Bochy challenged the ruling, but following a replay review, the ruling was that the call on the field stands.

"We have to play a little bit smarter," Bochy said.

Aoki's out call stands at third

Pirates: Following the Bucs' off-day Thursday, Charlie Morton will open up a weekend series against the Braves by facing his former team Friday at 7:35 p.m. ET in his 10th career Turner Field start -- but only his second in a Pirates uniform. Oddly, the previous occasion was Morton's very first start for Pittsburgh, on June 10, 2009 -- a week after his trade.

Giants: Right-hander Tim Lincecum (5-3, 3.00) will skip Thursday's visit to the White House to celebrate the 2014 World Series title with the rest of his teammates. Instead, Lincecum will fly directly to Philadelphia to get ready for Friday's 4:05 p.m. PT start against Jerome Williams and the Phillies. Lincecum has been roughed up in his last two outings, giving up eight earned runs over 9 1/3 innings.

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Alex Espinoza is a contributor to MLB.com. 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.