The Pittsburgh Pirates have gotten next to nothing from their starting rotation thus far this year, and that unfortunate trend continued Tuesday night as Francisco Liriano allowed six runs in the Baltimore Orioles’ 9-2 victory at PNC Park.
The Pirates, who lost for the sixth time in eight games, led 1-0 on Andrew McCutchen‘s third-inning RBI single, but the Orioles (23-20) plated the next seven runs to take command. Back-to-back home runs by defending MLB round-tripper champion Chris Davis and fellow slugger Nelson Cruz capped a four-run fifth that ended Liriano’s night.
Davis cleared the fence twice more against Pirates relievers Jared Hughes and Jeanmar Gomez, becoming just the third player in ballpark history to hit three homers in one game. Houston’s Vinny Castilla did it in PNC’s inaugural year of 2001 and McCutchen matched the feat as a rookie in 2009.
Pittsburgh (18-26) dropped to eight games below .500, the first time they’ve been that subpar through 44 games since 2006, when Jim Tracy‘s Pirates started 30-60. Clint Hurdle is in charge of this listing ship, which is in uncharted waters under his guidance. The worst the Bucs have been at this point in Hurdle’s four years is 20-24 in 2012.
It’ll take some doing to get back to the break-even point, but some decent pitching would help. Liriano couldn’t stem his month-long slump, coming unglued in the fourth inning after an efficient first three frames. Three singles and two walks – including one with the bases loaded – pushed two runs across and put Baltimore ahead.
The Orioles really broke out the bats in the fifth, when Adam Jones doubled home a run to make it 3-1 before Davis and Cruz visited the right-center field grandstand in the span of three pitches. If the impressive power wasn’t enough, Baltimore also went 3 for 5 with runners in scoring position.
As for the Bucs attack, it accumulated 10 hits but grounded into a pair of rally-killing double plays. Ike Davis lofted his second Pirates homer in the seventh to chase Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez, Pittsburgh lone extra-base hit of the night. Neil Walker and McCutchen collected two singles apiece.