Francisco Liriano threw 7.2 innings and reached 200 strikeouts as the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Chicago Cubs, 4-0.
Hitters came in batting .100 with two strikes against Liriano [12-7], and in this game, Cubs batters were 0-for-16. By reaching 200 strikeouts, Liriano is one away from tying a career-high set in 2010 with the Minnesota Twins.
The victory secures the Pirates a series win and a 5.5 game lead for the top spot in the National League Wild Card race over the Cubs.
Much of the damage was done on a Jordy Mercer three-run home run in the fifth inning. It was his third homer of the season and first since June 3. Francisco Cervelli and Pedro Alvarez who each singled, both scored on the play. Mercer came into play batting .367 on this Pirates road trip.
The final Pirates run came in the eighth inning when a Sean Rodriguez double, his 12th of the season scored Cervelli. Rodriguez entered play hitting .378 in his past 32 games. His baserunning error later in the inning cost the team a fifth run. Mercer grounded out to Anthony Rizzo and Rodriguez who got a big jump attempting to steal third base ran home. Rizzo was paying attention to Rodriguez and threw him out at home plate.
This win gives the Pirates eight consecutive victories, which ties a season-high set June 10-18. The last time the Pirates won eight consecutive games in one road trip was in 1938 July 4-12. The Pirates have won 15 of Liriano’s last 16 starts.
Following the loss, the Cubs celebrated in the clubhouse; its first chance to celebrate clinching its first playoff berth since 2008.
A Sunday Night Baseball game concludes this series as well as the road portion of the Pirates regular season schedule. A.J. Burnett [9-5 3.15 ERA] will take on Jake Arrieta [20-6 1.88 ERA]. Burnett is 8-4 with a 2.93 ERA in 11 career starts against the Cubs.
Of note: The last four times Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett pitched in a three-game series, the Pirates earned a sweep. The last time this occurred was June 30-July 2 on the road against the Detroit Tigers… Antonio Bastardo got the last out in the eighth inning and has retired each of the past 15 batters he’s faced… Joakim Soria has made 10 consecutive scoreless appearances after pitching in the ninth inning of Saturday’s contest.
Photo credit: Jon Durr/Getty Images