Francisco Liriano didn’t have his best stuff Tuesday night. Even despite a second inning solo home run from the Pittsburgh Pirates’ (51-48) starting pitcher that gave his team a 4-1 lead, the veteran couldn’t secure a win.
And, instead, Liriano’s outing tied for his shortest ever in the Pirates’ 7-4 loss to the Seattle Mariners (51-48).
Liriano lasted only 3.1 innings, giving up eight hits and all seven runs, elevating his ERA from 4.96 to 5.38.
From the beginning, Liriano showed signs that his control issues — which have plagued him all season — had returned, walking two batters in the first inning. But he was bailed out by a double play that ended the frame.
And all this despite the fact the Pirates’ offense gave Liriano early run support, plating three in the first inning. Right fielder Gregory Polanco opened the scoring with a one-out solo home run, his 13th of the season, off Mariners starting pitcher Felix Hernandez. Then, after Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen was hit by a pitch, left fielder Starling Marte hit his fifth triple of the season to score McCutchen. An RBI ground out from third baseman Jung Ho Kang completed the first inning.
Liriano started the second inning promisingly when he struck out Dae-Ho Lee on a 1-2 slider, but control once again became an issue. He allowed a single and gave up a walk before a double put the Mariners on the scoreboard.
Any question regarding whether Liriano would settle into the game was answered when he gave up a first pitch two-seam fastball that lead off the third inning. And that wasn’t the lone home run Liriano surrendered that inning.
Liriano wouldn’t make it out of the fourth inning.
After Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage made a mound visit, Liriano recorded his fourth (and final) walk of the night. His night ended after Robinson Cano’s RBI single, but the left-handed starter was still responsible for the two baserunners, both of whom were in scoring position.
Jared Hughes came on in relief with the ideal scenario, according to Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, to strand the two inherited runners. Hughes had Nelson Cruz in an 0-2 count, but he hit a sinker for an RBI ground out.
Then, the Pirates’ offensive momentum stalled.
For Seattle, Hernandez was able to get nine ground ball outs in six innings of work. Pittsburgh’s offense, which went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position, frustrated the 30,969 at PNC Park.
The abbreviated two-game series between these two teams ends Wednesday — and so does the Pirates’ eight-game homestand. If the Pirates lose, it will be the first time they have been swept since the June 17-19 road series against the Chicago Cubs.
Gerrit Cole (5-6, 2.99 ERA) will start the game for the Pirates, while James Paxton (3-4, 4.18 ERA) will start for the Mariners. Cole has never faced the Mariners but is 7-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 13 career inter-league starts.
Image credit: Joe Robbins