If Francisco Liriano is starting on the road, and they can get to the top of the ninth and not only have Francisco Liriano out there "hitting," but backing out of the box while each pitch is being delivered, you know that you're in a game that went very, very well.
Liriano struck out six and allowed only a mostly-meaningless run in the ninth, throwing just 94 pitches in an ultra-efficient bounce-back outing that halted the Pirates' four-game losing streak and gave the bullpen the night off. His brilliant performance highlighted the Cardinals' difficulties hitting lefties -- they may be able to find all kinds of holes against a righty like Charlie Morton, but they had an OPS of just .676 against lefties heading into tonight's game. As the ESPN announcers pointed out, that might not bode well for them if they have to face the Pirates in the postseason, particularly if Wandy Rodriguez is healthy by then.
Liriano's disdain for hitting is already well-known, but it was on display again tonight in hilarious fashion in the ninth. By then, he'd pretty much destroyed the Cardinals, and his complete indifference to his plate appearance reminded me of the Pirates stranded two leadoff triples in that
party 6-0 game against the Cards at PNC a couple weeks ago. Not that the Pirates were trying to strand leadoff triples then. But if you can get to the point, as a fan, where your team is giving away chunks of win expectancy like that and you just don't care, that's a great feeling.
The Bucs got solo home runs from Pedro Alvarez and Garrett Jones off Shelby Miller in the second. Then they got three more off Miller in the fourth when Neil Walker singled, Jones reached on an error, Tony Sanchez brought in a run with a ground-ball single and Starling Marte (probably hoping to redeem himself after last night's mishap) hit a hustling two-run double to center.
The Pirates are back to being three games up in the NL Central. The Reds won again and are now just a half-game back of the Cardinals.