Upton Jr. HR, solid Liriano lift Blue Jays

Upton Jr. HR, solid Liriano lift Blue Jays

MONTREAL, QC -- Melvin Upton Jr. homered and left-hander Francisco Liriano tossed 3 2/3 innings vs. his former team as the Blue Jays left Olympic Stadium with a 6-4 victory over the Pirates on Saturday afternoon.

Upton made his case for the final spot on Toronto's 25-man roster with a deep home run to left-center field during the bottom of the fourth inning. The two-run shot was Upton's third homer in 14 games this spring. He entered the day still not knowing whether he had beat out infielder Ryan Goins for a spot on the team.

Liriano faced his former club for the first time since he was dealt to the Blue Jays at least year's non-waiver Trade Deadline. The veteran southpaw allowed a pair of hits and walked two while striking out four in his final outing of the spring. Liriano finished the Grapefruit League season with 29 strikeouts over 18 innings and his next outing will come in Game 4 of the regular season against the Rays.

"I thought he looked great today," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He probably had the best Spring Training out of anybody out there. He is really feeling good. He's healthy. I saw Larry as a young kid coming up in Minnesota. Didn't see him at all when he went over to Pittsburgh. 

"He looks a lot like the old guy, a young kid. In Spring Training his command has been really, really good and that's the key to his success."

Liriano induces a double play

Pittsburgh fell behind 2-0 early but eventually got on the board in the top of the fourth. Andrew McCutchen walked, Josh Harrison was hit by a pitch, and after Mike Bolsinger replaced Liriano on the mound, Josh Bell chipped in with an RBI single to right field. Pittsburgh then added three runs in the top of the fifth as Elias Diaz and Cole Tucker each doubled, while Adam Frazier and Eric Wood picked up a pair of RBI singles.

Wood's RBI single ties the game

Right-hander Chad Kuhl got the start for Pittsburgh and he pitched into the third inning. Kuhl allowed a pair of runs on four hits and two walks with one strikeout over 2 2/3 innings. The 24-year-old made five starts this spring and allowed seven earned runs over 14 2/3 innings. His first start of the regular season will come on April 6 in the series finale against the Red Sox.

"A little sloppy. Felt like I was in a little bit of a rush in the stretch," Kuhl said of his final spring tuneup. "I'll go back and do some more work in the bullpen, but other than that, I felt good. … They did a nice job of extending counts and making at-bats really long. They did a really good job."

Troy Tulowitzki, Kendrys Morales and Ezequiel Carrera all doubled for the Blue Jays. Upton also added an RBI groundout to finish his day 1-for-2 with a run scored and three RBIs. 

Toronto took the lead for good with one run in the sixth and another in the seventh. First-base prospect Rowdy Tellez chipped in with a homer to left-center field and Darwin Barney added an RBI single.

"To do it in front of 50,000, that was a great feeling," said Tellez, who will open the year in Triple-A Buffalo. "Great experience and I can't thank the Blue Jays enough for bringing me up here for the second year. It was great … couldn't do it a better way. It was just an awesome experience in [an even] better situation."

Pirates Up Next: The Pirates left Montreal on Saturday night and flew to Boston, where they will open the season Monday at 2:05 p.m. ET against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Gerrit Cole will make his first Opening Day start, and McCutchen will play his first game in right field as the Bucs line up against reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello.

Blue Jays Up Next: The Blue Jays will enjoy an off-day on Sunday before opening their season on Monday afternoon at 3:05 p.m. ET in Baltimore. Veteran right-hander Marco Estrada will get the start on Opening Day while the Orioles will counter with right-hander Kevin Gausman. Estrada is coming off a season in which he went 9-9 with a 3.48 ERA over 29 games. He was plagued with back soreness throughout much of 2016 but has been feeling much better this spring.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.