Liriano's results better in first win since May

Liriano's results better in first win since May

OAKLAND -- Francisco Liriano's ERA ticked up a bit Sunday afternoon, from 5.33 to 5.34. He didn't record a quality start, leaving after five innings. But his first win in more than a month was a step in the right direction for the struggling starter.

"I was able to keep the team in the ballgame," Liriano said. "Very happy about it."

Liriano allowed three runs on six hits, striking out two and, most notably, only walking one batter. He pitched four efficient innings before running into trouble in a 33-pitch fifth. But the inning didn't break Liriano, and he held on long enough to snap a six-start winless streak in the Pirates' 6-3 win over the A's at the Coliseum.

"It's always nice to walk away with a win for a starting pitcher," manager Clint Hurdle said. "That's never not good."

There hadn't been a "W" next to Liriano's name since May 24. Between that start against Arizona and Sunday's in Oakland, Liriano went 0-5 with a 7.12 ERA. Opponents were hitting .300 with a .916 OPS against him.

Liriano worked with pitching coach Ray Searage between starts, both determined to get the Pirates' Opening Day starter back on track. Searage strongly denied the idea that there had been any sort of tension between him and Liriano, one of Pittsburgh's proudest reclamation projects since he became a Pirate in 2013.

"His work between starts all the way through here has been solid. That's not the question," Hurdle said before Sunday's game. "It's taking that work and finding that good rhythm, pace and confidence out on the mound during the game."

For the most part, Liriano was able to do that against the A's. He allowed two runs on three straight hits in the second inning. Oakland strung together three more hits to tack on another run in the fifth, but Liriano limited the damage.

What was the difference?

"I was able to repeat my delivery better," Liriano said. "That's going to help me a lot."

Even with his pitch count manageable at 88, Liriano left the game after five innings. Hurdle put the ball in the hands of his bullpen, which has been lights-out of late. He also wanted to get Liriano out on a high note.

"That's why I made the move," Hurdle said. "You've pushed it here. You had a better day all over the place. Let's just move on from here. The bullpen can go ahead and put it away."

Liriano said he hasn't lost his confidence during this run of inefficient, ineffective outings. He's been able to lean on his past struggles, learn from them and, hopefully, begin to put this current stretch behind him.

"Baseball's tough. You go through tough times. I thought I was going through one," Liriano said. "Just keep at it, try to get better every start."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.