Francisco Liriano allowed just two hits over eight shutout innings and Garrett Jones knocked in four runs as the Pirates whipped the Cardinals Friday night to move back into a first-place tie.
Liriano struck out six and got good results with all of his pitches. It was fun to contrast his stuff with Shelby Miller's. Miller has a tremendous fastball, sitting at 95-96 with good movement, but while Liriano doesn't throw quite as hard, he was getting his fastball and changeup to move all over the place tonight.
Jones hit a big two-run, two-out double to bring home two runs in the first, and then led off the fourth with a homer. Russell Martin followed with a homer of his own, and suddenly the Bucs had a 4-0 lead. Miller walked Liriano two batters later, and Jose Tabata followed with a double. That brought up Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen, but neither could capitalize with a hit that likely would have effectively ended the game.
With the way Liriano was pitching, the Cardinals had an uphill climb anyway, but the Pirates made it even tougher in the fifth when Marlon Byrd doubled and Jones singled him home. Overall, it was a huge performance for Jones, for whom huge performances have been hard to come by this season.
The Pirates really haven't played like a contender this month, but if they're only going to win occasionally, I'd prefer that those games come against the Cardinals (and Reds). This was an important victory. Saturday and Sunday await.