One thing that hasn’t happened all season long is Francisco Liriano turning in back-to-back bad outings.
After a less-than-spectacular start last time out, the Pittsburgh Pirates ace lived up to that standard by turning in a solid six inning performance as the Bucs took their second consecutive game from the Texas Rangers, 5-4 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Liriano followed up a great outing Monday by rookie Gerrit Cole by allowing only one earned run on six hits through six innings of work. In earning his 16th win of the season, a career high, Liriano struck out five and walked two.
The Pirates gave their ace an early lead in the third when Andrew McCutchen’s infield single plated Tony Sanchez, who led off the inning with a double.
The Bucs padded that lead in the fifth when McCutchen singled in Jordy Mercer. Mercer doubled with two outs, his second two-bagger of the game. After a single from Marlon Byrd to move McCutchen to second, Gaby Sanchez delivered an RBI single to make it a 3-0 game. Two pitches later, Rangers’ starter Martin Perez uncorked a wild one that allowed Byrd to score and give the Bucs a 4-0 cushion.
Texas got on the board in the bottom half of the frame when Ian Kinsler delivered a two-out RBI double that scored Joey Butler.
Justin Wilson came on to throw a scoreless seventh for the Pirates before the Rangers made things interesting in the eighth off Jason Grilli.
Adrian Beltre made it a 4-2 game when he singled to right to score Alex Rios. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle lifted Grilli, who lasted only two-thirds of an inning for the second consecutive outing, in favor of Tony Watson.
Watson allowed a double to A.J. Pierzynski to put runners at second and third. However, with the tying run in scoring position, Watson fanned Jeff Baker to put an end to the threat.
The Pirates got that run back in the ninth when McCutchen singled home Neil Walker, who led off the frame by drawing a walk, to make it a 5-2 game.
But for a change Mark Melancon didn’t make it easy.
After the Pirates’ closer struck out the first two hitters he faced, the Rangers pounded out four consecutive hits, including RBI singles from Kinsler and Rios to make it a one-run game. With the tying run standing on third base and the winning run on first, Melancon rebounded to strike out Beltre to end the game and pick up his 13th save of the season.
The Bucs pounded out 11 hits on the night as a team. In addition to Mercer’s career-high four, McCutchen and Gaby Sanchez each had two apiece.
The Pirates will go for the three-game sweep Wednesday afternoon when they send A.J. Burnett (7-10, 3.31 ERA) to the hill to take on the Rangers’ Matt Garza (9-4, 3.70). First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. Eastern time.