MORNING PIRATES BUZZ
Francisco Liriano (11-4, 2.16 ERA) pitched seven dominant innings and Pedro Alvarez belted his NL-leading 27th home run of the season as the Pittsburgh Pirates (62-42) beat the St. Louis Cardinals (62-41) 9-2 on Monday night to pull within a half game of the Cardinals for the NL Central lead.
It was a big night for the Pirates as they also moved 4.5 games ahead of the Cincinnati Reds (59-48) for the top wildcard spot.
Liriano allowed 1 run over seven innings, striking out 8 and walking 2 to improve to 11-4 on the season. Liriano has now won six of his last seven starts and is 6-1 at home with a 1.61 ERA on the season. “He continues to pitch well,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He continues to be very aggressive. Change up and slider continue to come into play,” Hurdle said.
Liriano was lights out retiring the the first 10 batters he faced and has 16 strikeouts in his last two starts. What stands out with Liriano is how he’s putting hitters away as opponents are 0-for-26 against Liriano when the count has reached two strikes in his last two starts.
Liriano has been a great story for the Pirates and if he continues pitching at the level he is now into early September, don’t be surprised if he enters the CY Young discussion.
But, when breaking down last night’s game, it was Pedro Alvarez who won that game. He has that special ability to change the momentum of the game with one swing and he’s a true game breaker as we saw Monday night. Alvarez’s 3-run homer in the first inning was a statement putting the Pirates up 4-0 and they never looked back.
There’s a reason management has been actively seeking a bat, preferably in right field to put behind Andrew McCutchen and Alvarez. Getting protection behind Alvarez would be huge and it has the Pirates not giving up on acquiring the likes of Alex Rios and Hunter Pence. For the Pirates to nab Pence, word continues to be it’s going to cost at least one of Jameson Taillon, Gregory Polanco or Alen Hanson, a high price for a rental player. The Giants are asking for a huge return and the White Sox asking price remains high on Alex Rios who despite his work ethic questions, Pittsburgh feels he can be a difference maker behind McCutchen and Alvarez.
The trouble with acquiring Rios is that the White Sox to this point continue to show little interest in absorbing much of Rios contract for the remainder of this season and next season.
The high asking prices for Pence, Rios and even Marlon Byrd who the Pirates checked in on, has Cubs RF Nate Schierholtz becoming more of a possibility for the Pirates. The team has also liked David Dejesus in the past who could be a part-time starter/bench player down the stretch.
The Pirates at the end of the day, though, could still go the first base route and bring Justin Morneau on board to split time with Garrett Jones and also upgrade the bench. The Pirates have been scouting Morneau in recent weeks who could be had for a C-level type prospect were the Pirates willing to take on all of Morneau’s salary.