The Pittsburgh Pirates (78-56) moved into a tie for first place with a 5-0 shutout win over the St. Louis Cardinals (78-56) on Friday night at PNC Park The shutout was the Pirates 4th shutout win over the Cardinals this season.
The stars of the game were Francisco Liriano (15-6, 2.57 ERA) and the Pirates getting a breakout game from Garrett Jones (.240 – 13 HR – 47 RBI) who drove in four runs.
Liriano pitched 8 shutout innings, allowing 2 hits, striking out 6 and walking 2. It was a beautiful start for Liriano and you could tell very early on that he was going to be tough to hit. Liriano threw 59 strikes on 95 pitches, and he made quick work of the Cardinals late in the game, needing just seven pitches to get out of a 1-2-3, 7th inning and ten pitches for a 1-2-3, 8th. Liriano retired the last seven batters he faced.
Stepping up in big game situations, Liriano is now 3-0 with an 0.75 ERA against the Cardinals this season. He’s an impressive 8-1 at home with a 1.20 ERA.
As for Jones, he gave the Pirates a huge game offensively, going 3-4 with a solo home run, 2-run double and an RBI single, driving in 4 runs.
Jones whose woeful play this season has GM Neal Huntington still in talks with the Twins about 1B Justin Morneau, was given a couple days off by design with the hope of him being able to regroup.
“We gave him some down time, continued to work with Jay,” manager Clint Hurdle said of Jones. “He’s well aware of what he needs to do, what he does best when he gets into a groove, has historically matched up well against the Cardinals. Thought a couple days down could help,” said Hurdle.
The down time worked for one night.
Jones entered today’s game 4-for-7 in his career against Cardinals starter Shelby Miller, and his first at-bat was a pressure situation as he came up with the bases loaded and two outs, and Jones delivered a 2-run RBI double to right, giving the Pirates a 2-0 first inning lead.
Jones would add a solo home run in the 4th, and his best at-bat of the night might have been in the 5th when he singled to center scoring Marlon Byrd for his 4th RBI of the game.
Is this a sign of things to come for Jones? Based on his body of work this season, probably not, but if Jones gets hot down the stretch, it could go a long ways to the Pirates winning the division.