May 24, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Starling Mare (6) and center fielder Andrew McCutche (22) celebrate a three run home run by Marte against the New York Mets during the sixth inning at PNC Park. The Pirates won 9-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The Pittsburgh Pirates achieved an impressive milestone over the past three days, as each of their starting pitchers against the New York Mets struck out at least 10 batters, the first time the franchise has pulled that off since 1969.
The Pirates (21-22) never trailed the Mets this weekend en route to a comprehensive series sweep, which followed a discouraging pair of losses to the Twins on the North Side.
Francisco Cervelli (three) and Gregory Polanco (two) also piled up multiple hits, but the bats shared top billing with Liriano, who rebounded from a terrible outing against Minnesota last week (seven runs allowed in two innings) to stymie the staggering Mets (24-21).
Although Liriano went just six innings Sunday, the left-hander outdid Gerrit Cole and A.J. Burnett in the strikeout category this weekend. After those two fanned 10 Mets each in the opening two games of the series, Liriano came up three shy of his career high for strikeouts in a game, set in 2012.
An early pivot point arrived in the second, when the Mets put runners on second and third with no outs. Liriano wriggled out of trouble by striking out the side, keeping the game scoreless.
After Jordy Mercer chipped in a rare RBI with a double in the fourth, the Mets struck back in the fifth on Wilmer Flores‘ run-scoring single. But much like the first two games of the series, the Pirates took advantage of their opportunities to force New York to play from behind.
The onslaught started when McCutchen slammed his second homer in as many days, touching up Mets starter Jonathon Niese in the fifth to put the Pirates ahead 3-1. Cervelli singled in Jung Ho Kang, who had walked, to cap the three-run frame.
In the sixth, Marte removed all suspense when he lined Erik Goeddel‘s center-cut changeup into the left-field bleachers, scoring Polanco and McCutchen. The Mets had chosen to walk McCutchen intentionally to face Marte, who made the visitors pay with his ninth dinger of the season.
Although the Pirates still trail the first-place Cardinals by 6 1/2 games in the National League Central, they are three back of the Cubs for second place and three ahead of the fourth-place Reds.
The 10-game homestand concludes with a three-game series against the Marlins. Charlie Morton is scheduled to make his return from offseason hip surgery in a 7:05 p.m. start on Memorial Day. Miami will counter with David Phelps.