PIRATES – GIANTS REACTIONS
By John Perrotto
Francisco Liriano hasn’t lost a game since the Pirates were no-hit by Max Scherzer.
That was more than two months ago, June 20 to be exact, when the Washington Nationals ace missed a perfect game by a whisker at Nationals Park.
That was 10 starts ago and Liriano is 5-0 in that span to raise his season record to 9-6.
Liriano stayed on the winning track Sunday night despite bad defense behind him and poor command of his pitches as the Pirates beat the San Francisco Giants 5-2.
“Some things happened out there that complicated some things some times,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said, “but we were able to stay in front of it and gets out when we needed them and add on runs when we needed them.”
And Liriano kept his composure even when first baseman Pedro Alvarez made two more errors to raise his season total 18, second baseman Neil Walker threw a ball away and the two right-side infielders also allowed a pop up to fall between them for what was officially scored a fielder’s choice.
The left-hander said the fielding miscues didn’t bother him, though.
“You just focus on the next hitter if there is an error,” he said. “You just have to keep making pitches after that, put it behind you and think about getting the hitters out. You’ve just got to stay focused.”
Liriano wound being charged with two unearned runs in 5 1/3 innings. He allowed seven hits and three walks while striking out five. The lack of control bothered him more than the errors.
“I didn’t get ahead in the count and I wasn’t hitting my spots,” Liriano said. “I’m better when I don’t fall behind in the count.”
Hurdle said the sign of a good pitching staff is how they are able to overcome their fielder’s foibles.
“You know what you need to do,” Hurdle said. “You know what you have do for accountability as a team,” Hurdle said. “When things go sideways, you can’t try to do too much, you just have to stay within yourself. We’re a resilient team and our guys know that some days you’re not always going to come out and play your best and good teammates pick each other up.”
–Hurdle is now faced with the task of trying to divide 10 into eight with the return of shortstop Jordy Mercer to the active roster before the game.
Mercer had been out since July 20 with a sprained left knee.
Mercer, along with the return of third baseman Josh Harrison from the DL on Friday, essentially gives Hurdle 10 starting players for eight positions. Both veteran third baseman Aramis Ramirez and rookie shortstop Jung Ho Kang played well while Mercer and Harrison were out.
While Hurdle declined to be nailed down about how he will use everyone, he admitted to looking forward to having so many quality players to deploy.
“I’ve never had this flexibility before,” Hurdle said. “The in-game dynamic and double switches will be strong and we haven’t even discussed how this will affect
(utility infielder) Sean Rodriguez.”
One factor for Hurdle will be giving players additionally rest for the stretch run. He specifically pointed to Kang, who was given a day off on Aug. 16 against the Mets at New York then hit three home runs in the next six games.
Hurdle also said he is not worried about any of his players being upset about any playing time adjustments because the Pirates are in the thick of a pennant race. They trail the St. Louis Cardinals by 3 ½ games in the National League Central and lead the Chicago Cubs by three games and the Giants by nine games in the wild card standings.
“When you have the right men, you can’t have too many options,” Hurdle said. “Feelings aren’t hurt because these guys are unselfish. It’s incredible the things you can get done when you don’t worry about who gets the credit.”
Mercer did not start but entered the game as defensive replacement in the seventh inning and went 0-for-1. He played in seven games on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis, going 6-for-25 (.240) with a home run.
— Reserve first baseman/outfielder Travis Ishikawa was placed on the 15-day DL, retroactive to Aug. 20, with a strained lower back. He is hitting .222 with one home run in 33 games since being claimed off waivers July 5 from San Francisco.
–Left fielder Starling Marte went 2-for-5 to extend his hitting streak to eight games. He is 14-for-37 (.378) during the streak with nine runs scored, raising his batting average to .291.