If Tuesday night’s win was unnecessarily complicated for the Pirates, this one was nice and easy. Dan Haren looked terrible in the first inning and the Pirates made him pay for it; of the nine batters that came to the plate in the first, the Pirates had three hits, drew three walks, hit two hard outs, and had a sacrifice fly. The sum total of that was a four-run inning keyed by Josh Harrison’s two-run double. An inning later, Travis Snider mashed a home run to the top of the right field grandstand for the Pirates’ fifth run, and Andrew McCutchen added an RBI double in the seventh for good measure.
Most of this run-scoring was unnecessary, as Francisco Liriano made one of his best starts of 2014. He walked two hitters in the first, but those were his only two walks of the night. He carried a no-hitter into the fifth, and pitched seven full innings for the first time since April. He ended up allowing one run, scattering four hits across his seven innings, striking out four. The PitchFX numbers say that his slider averaged 88 mph and topped out at 91, which suddenly looks a good deal more like the 2013 Francisco Liriano than the pitcher that we’ve seen this year. Basically, when I said before the game that we should stop wondering if the old Liriano would come back “unless something changes with his slider in the next few starts,” this is what I was hoping to see. It’s only one start and this Dodger lineup is nothing special without Puig and Ramirez in it, but the raw numbers look promising. The only way I’m going to really be convinced that he’s “back” is if we see a few starts like this in a row, but a “few” starts has to be one start before it’s anything else. I’ll take it.
The Pirates are a season-high seven games above .500. The Rays are beating the Cardinals 3-0, which means that while the Pirates won’t make up ground in the NL Central (they’re still 2 1/2 back) and they won’t make up ground in the wild card (they’re still one back), they will probably end tonight tied for second place in the NL Central.