Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano turned in an outing worthy enough of a victory.
Unfortunately for him, the Pirates offense made sure that wouldn’t happen.
Liriano struck out 11 in six innings of work, allowing only four hits and a questionable earned run, but the Bucs bats were silenced for a second consecutive night by a Cincinnati Reds starter as the Pirates were shutout by the Reds 2-0.
A night after Johnny Cueto tossed eight shutout innings against the Pirates, Saturday it was Mike Leake’s turn.
Leake allowed seven hits and struck out five through six innings and while the Pirates had some chances, they couldn’t muster the big hit when they needed one.
The Bucs got leadoff singles in both the first and second innings but Neil Walker erased Alex Presley by grounding into a double play in the first and Russell Martin was caught stealing in the second to end any possible scoring threats.
The Bucs also had a pair of guys on with one out in the third and two on with two outs in the sixth, but both times came up empty.
Meanwhile Liriano gave the Bucs every chance in the world to win.
The southpaw retired the first 10 batters he faced and through one stretch tied a franchise record with seven consecutive strike outs (Erik Bedard, 2012).
“He was outstanding,” said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. “He battled and had great stuff.”
However the Reds got the game’s first run in the fourth without ever hitting the ball out of the infield.
Zach Cozart reached on a one-out infield single and after Liriano got Joey Votto to ground out, Brandon Phillips hit a ground ball to first base. Liriano was a little late breaking to the bag and even though replays showed Phillips was clearly out, first base umpire Bob Davidson called him safe allowing Cozart to score from second base.
The game stayed that way until the eighth when the Reds got a run off of Tony Watson.
Shin-Soo Choo led off the inning with a single and after being sacrificed to second, came around to score on an RBI single off the bat of Joey Votto.
The Pirates had their best chance of the game in the eighth when they had runners on the corners with no outs after singles by Presley and Walker. But Reds reliever Jonathan Broxton was able to get Andrew McCutchen to pop out to right, Garret Jones to ground into a fielder’s choice and Russell Martin to fly out to center.
The inability for the Pirates to score runs is starting to become a trend this homestand as the Bucs have scored only one run in their past 30 innings of baseball. The loss also means the Pirates have lost a series for the first time since early May, when they dropped two of three games to the Washington Nationals.
“We had our chances,” said Hurdle. “Even late in the game we had opportunities. We just didn’t get hits when we needed them. Hopefully they will come in bunches the next couple of days.”
The one bright spot for the Pirates offense was Presley, who was making his first start of the season. Getting his first action since being re-called earlier in the week, Presley came through with a three hit night batting leadoff in place of Starling Marte.
“It felt real good,” said Presley. “It was nice to get out there and get multiple at bats and see a lot of pitches. It was just nice to contribute.”
They will try and get the bats going Sunday afternoon when they wrap up their three game series against the Reds. Jeanmar Gomez (2-0, 2.30 ERA) is scheduled to get the ball for the Bucs and will oppose Cincinnati’s Mat Latos (5-0, 3.01).
Winning Pitcher: Mike Leake (5-2)
Losing Pitcher: Francisco Liriano (3-2)
Save: Aroldis Chapman (14)
Home Runs: None
Photo Credit: Associated Press