Only in a season like this can Francisco Liriano go six innings where he doesn't give up a hit and then gets sent back out to the field for the seventh inning and give up three straight hits, including a game-tying three run smash, only for the Pirates to come back and win on a Justin Morneau pinch hit single in the eighth inning with two outs for the Pirates 87th win and keeping them tied for first place in the NL Central. I mean that is how you wrote this up before the season started, right? I did. I think.
So yea, that is how this thing went down. Liriano has been nothing short of dominant when pitching at PNC Park and while he wasn't great today he was good enough against a pretty bad Cubs lineup to not give up a hit for six innings. Things were going pretty well for Liriano until the sixth inning when he walked two guys to put runners on first and second with one out but was able to get out of the jam despite starting to lose it. I am not really sure why he was sent back out for the seventh but he was and gave up a single followed by a home run and then put the go head run on with another single. It was the first time he didn't figure in a decision on the season but it doesn't matter because the Pirates won. His final line reads 6.0+ innings, three hits, four walks, four strikeouts on 107 pitches and it certainly could have been a worse day for him.
The three hits were all the Cubs were going to get. Bryan Morris came in and did a great job despite his recent struggles and Kyle Farnsworth worked a scoreless eighth before Mark Melancon got the save. A little interesting to see Farnsworth get the work in the eighth inning and not Jason Grilli but even I have to admit that Farnsworth has done a pretty nice job since coming to the Pirates. The Cubs only got one base runner on the pen and that came via a Farnsworth walk so that was really nice to see.
The offense had four hits on the night. Jose Tabata led the game off with a triple off the centerfield wall and then scored on a wild pitch. The Pirates then got a double from Jordy Mercer and a single from Andrew McCutchen to put runners on first and third with nobody out but the Pirates were unable to plate another run. It could have really hurt them and going forward the Pirates have to capitalize on that if they want to win the division. Tony Sanchez went oppo bomb in the fourth inning for the second run and then I already talked about the winning run as Morneau singled home McCutchen in the eighth.
Just as an aside I don't think there is any reason that John Buck should play over Tony Sanchez from here on out. Sanchez is by far better defensively and Buck isn't very good offensively unless you are praying for a home run. Buck should only be there if the Pirates want to use Martin/Sanchez for a pinch hit opportunity late in the game and something happens to the catcher in the game. These games are far too important to have Buck in there starting games.
I touched on it above and I know that this is about 50/50 among people but I really don't think Liriano should have been sent back out for the seventh inning. I get that there was a no hitter in progress but at 99 pitches after six innings there was no way he would have been able to finish the game. He had a pretty rough sixth inning where he was obviously losing it that you were better off just going to the pen and hoping for the combined no-hitter. To me winning the game is the most important thing now. The no-hitter would have been nice but doing what is best for the team, and winning the game, was most important. Liriano was only out there because he had a no-hitter and in my eyes that was wrong. Personal achievements are great but I am sure everyone on that team is more concerned with winning a division title.
Anyways, the Cardinals won today and the Reds lost. The Pirates are still tied with St. Louis for the lead in the NL Central while the Reds are 3.5 back of both of them. The Reds are only 4.5 games up on Washington for the second wild card and only four games up in the loss column. The Pirates are in a good place with San Diego coming in for four games.