Aug. 14, 2013
Pittsburgh 5, St. Louis 1
Turning point in the game: The Pirates' defense erased three Cardinals leadoff baserunners en route to Francisco Liriano's four-hit complete game victory.
In need of a win following arguably their toughest loss of the season, the Pirates on Aug. 14 turned to Francisco Liriano, their ace who was looking for a bounce-back performance of his own when he took the hill in St. Louis.
The previous night, with the game seemingly well in hand, left fielder Starling Marte dropped a routine fly ball with one out in the ninth that opened the door for Allen Craig's game-tying single, resulting in Mark Melancon's first blown save of the season. The Cardinals finally broke through in the 14th, walking off on Adron Chambers' single off Jared Hughes.
On a more personal level, Liriano was trying to shake off his previous start - his worst of the season, in which he allowed 10 earned runs in just 2 1/3 innings of work.
He answered the challenge by delivering one of his strongest outings of the year, tossing a complete-game, four-hit gem that keyed a 5-1 Pirates victory over the Cardinals, putting to an end a four-game losing streak.
"What we've seen all year, he's just given us chances to win. He's pitched deep into games, he's mixed pitches, he's really been in command when runners get on base," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
After both Liriano and his mound opponent, Shelby Miller, cruised through one-two-three first innings, the Pirates offense went to work in the top of the second. Pedro Alvarez homered to lead off the inning, and Garrett Jones followed two batters later with a shot over the right field fence to put the Bucs up 2-0. Marte and Tony Sanchez added run-scoring singles in a three-run fourth.
Liriano frustrated the Cardinal bats all night, retiring 12 of 13 batters during one stretch from the second through the sixth innings. His swing-and-miss stuff wasn't what it's been at other points during the year, but he worked efficiently, needing only 94 pitches to go the distance.
"You can say the guy was on it," the Cardinals' Matt Carpenter said. "It's one thing to come in here and say we lost the game because we didn't play well or we had a ton of pitches to hit and we didn't do our job.
"This guy was nasty."
The defense backed up Liriano's sharp pitching throughout the night, three times erasing leadoff baserunners via the double play. The only blemish on the left-hander's stellar night came in the ninth, with the Pirates holding a comfortable 5-0 lead. A Carlos Beltran groundout scored Matt Carpenter, who had doubled with one out and advanced to third on a wild pitch.
Liriano retired Craig to end the game, putting the finishing touch on his second complete game of the season and the third of his career. He scattered four hits, striking out six and walking only one as he faced just three batters over the minimum.
The strong all-around performance stretched the Pirates' lead in the NL Central back to three games, after the Cardinals shaved it down from a season high four games.
"It was important because every game counts, especially after last night," Liriano said. "It was a tough game last night and we had to put that one behind us and come ready to play."