The Pirates started this road trip with a three game sweep at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals. They finished this road trip 6-4 and are now just 2.5 games back of the Cardinals in the NL Central and keep their 1.5 game lead in the Wild Card. The Pirates once against used a big inning and got just an outstanding start from Francisco Liriano to take three of four games from the Phillies and head back to PNC Park to take on the Cubs.
Liriano hasn't been good all season. In the first half of the year he posted a 4.72 ERA with opposing hitters posting a .742 OPS off him. Well in the second half of the season Liriano has turned more into the 2013 version with a 2.51 ERA and holding opposing hitters to a .568 OPS and posting a WHIP of 1.082. Tonight he dominated the Phillies lineup with a season-high 12 strikeouts in eight innings of work while giving up only four hits and two walks. He was in total control today and even though he looked a little rough around the edges early leaving some pitches up in the zone but he just cruised. At one point you didn't know if Liriano could get back to the point he was last year but right now he is pitching like the staff ace and if the Pirates get into the Wild Card game he is the guy I would throw on the bump.
The Pirates got a lone run in the second inning on an Ike Davis single then tacked on three more runs in the sixth inning off A.J. Burnett. Neil Walker doubled home a run followed by a Russell Martin sacrifice fly and a Gregory Polanco single to score another run that all but put the game way. The Pirates sent eight men to the plate in that inning scoring those three runs on four hits.
Walker was the only Pirate with more than one hit for a team that had eight hits total. The Pirates went 3-of-13 with runners in scoring position and left seven guys on base so they weren't as productive as you would have liked them to be but with as good as Liriano was I don't think it really mattered tonight. Another hit or two and it's a laugher.
The big news out of this game is that Starling Marte was forced to leave the game due to "discomfort" in his left arm. Marte was hit by a pitch in the second inning and looked to be a good deal of pain. He did stay in the game but was replaced the next half inning. It looked like it was right above the elbow so unless something is broken I assume (hope) it won't be too bad. Marte has been one of the leagues best hitters over the past month plus and if he misses any time it would be a huge hit. The Pirates offense is good but when you need to win as many games as possible down the stretch you want to have all your top players healthy.
The Cardinals took a loss to day to the Reds (thanks Johnny Cueto!) and despite the Giants winning and the Brewers leading the Marlins after seven innings (at the time of me writing this) it was a good week for the Pirates. Six wins in the last seven games will go a long way for this team if they want to get into the playoffs. At that point anything can happen.