When the Pirates signed Francisco Liriano this winter, this is exactly the sort of game I had in mind. I don't mean that as a compliment or a criticism of Liriano, just that I've always thought of Liriano as a guy with great stuff that can be his own worst enemy because of his control. Today, he went out and shut the Cubs down on seven two-hit innings, whiffing eight hitters. He also made some of those innings white-knucklers because he walked five hitters and the Pirates have practically no offense to speak of right now.
The Pirates had plenty of trouble at the plate against Travis Wood this afternoon, but Jordy Mercer and Russell Martin had two hits apiece and the Pirates managed to make the most of that, with Martin driving in Mercer in the sixth with an RBI double, then drawing a walk and scoring the second run on a Travis Snider fielder's choice in the ninth.
This was not a wholly re-assuring performance for the Pirates given their recent struggles, but it was a win nonetheless. The offense is really, really scuffling right now. That's partially because Starling Marte is having a ton of trouble at the plate and it's partially because Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen have yet to really break out yet despite showing signs of being close. The reality, though, is that the Pirates need wins against teams like the Cubs and they got one today. A lot of that is due to Liriano; the appeal of a pitcher like him is that he's good enough to take over a baseball game by sheer force of talent. He did that today, and the Pirates can put their three-game losing streak behind them.