Early offense leads Bucs over Dodgers
PITTSBURGH – Clint Hurdle isn’t sure the Pittsburgh Pirates need an ace to make it to the postseason for the second straight year.
Of course, he’s not going to complain if his enigmatic and injury-plagued staff finally develops one. Particularly if it’s Francisco Liriano.
Showing flashes of the form that helped him win 16 games during a resurgent 2013, Liriano handcuffed the Los Angeles Dodgers for seven innings in a 6-1 victory on Wednesday night.
Liriano (2-7) overcame his typical early game jitters to allow one run on four hits and pick his first regular-season win at PNC Park in 11 months. Making his third start since returning from a strained left oblique, Liriano struck out four against two walks and was never in danger of giving away an early 5-0 lead.
“I’m not at the point I want to be yet but everything is getting better and everything is moving forward,” he said.
For Liriano and the Pirates both.
Josh Harrison had two hits with two RBIs, including a two-run double down the left field line capped a four-run outburst in the first against Dan Haren (8-8). Pittsburgh has won five of six since the All-Star break to move a season-high seven games over .500 (54-47).
“When we get on base, we know we can make things happen,” Harrison said.
Travis Snider added two hits, including his fifth homer, for the Pirates. Pittsburgh batted around in the first against Haren, who has lost four consecutive starts.
“The first pitch of a game was a strike and then they swing at the next three pitches and I stepped back after that and said to myself that I needed to make better pitches,” Haren said. “But then I nibbled around guys and couldn’t throw a strike. I just couldn’t do anything right.”
The right-hander settled down to get through five innings but the Dodgers could do little against Liriano. Los Angeles didn’t collect a hit until Miguel Rojas doubled with one out in the fifth and never threatened as Liriano put together his best start of the year.
It didn’t quite start out that way.
The left-hander has struggled with his command all season and it looked like more of the same in the first after consecutive one-out walks to Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez. Liriano escaped after striking out Scott Van Slyke and getting Juan Uribe to fly out to right.
Haren wasn’t so fortunate when he took to the mound in the bottom of the first. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases before Haren walked Russell Martin on a full count to hand the Pirates the lead. Ike Davis followed with a sacrifice fly before Harrison’s stinging double to left pushed the advantage to 4-0.
Snider made it 5-0 when he hit the fifth pitch of the second inning to the last row of seats in right field. It was Snider’s first home run over the 21-foot fence on the Roberto Clemente Wall since the Pirates acquired him in 2012.
“For 2 1/2 years that thing has been staring at me,” Snider said. “I hit one off the top of the wall once, I thought it was a homer. It felt pretty good.”
Haren retired the last 10 batters he faced but fell to 0-4 with a 9.47 ERA in July. Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly credited Haren for a strong finish but didn’t rule out having the three-time All-Star skip a start or two with some off days on the horizon.
“He’s kept us in a lot of games this year,” Mattingly said. “He’s gotten us in a bit of a hole in the last couple of games but now is not the right time to talk about his future.”
NOTES: Dodgers RF Yasiel Puig walked while pinch hitting in the eighth inning, his first appearance since injuring his left wrist against St. Louis on Saturday. … Los Angeles SS Hanley Ramirez missed his third straight game with a left wrist injury but Mattingly maintains Ramirez is not a candidate to go on the disabled list. … Pittsburgh placed OF Starling Marte on the seven-day concussion disabled list and recalled INF Brent Morel from Triple-A Indianapolis. Morel singled in the seventh as a pinch-hitter. … Pirates 3B Pedro Alvarez was held out of the lineup after experiencing left knee discomfort while legging out a double in a 12-7 win on Tuesday. … The Pirates are off Thursday. They begin a three-game series in Colorado on Friday night when Charlie Morton (5-9, 3.28) faces Brett Anderson (0-3, 4.00). … The Dodgers start a three-game set with NL West-leading San Francisco on Friday. Zach Greinke (11-6, 2.90 ERA) takes on Tim Lincecum (9-6, 3.65).
in the opener.