Francisco Liriano struck out nearly half the batters he faced and the Pirates backed him with 13 hits for a 7-3 victory over the Nationals.
Liriano struck out 11 (of 23 batters faced), walked three and allowed one run on three hits in six-plus innings in his first start after the all-star break -- he was scratched from a scheduled start due to neck stiffness last Saturday.
With the fans still on a high from the Aramis Ramirez news, the Pirates took an early lead off Nationals starter Doug Fister. Starling Marte tripled to left-center field, scoring Andrew McCutchen from first base in the first inning, then Pedro Alvarez, of course, led off the second with a opposite-field home run, putting the Bucs up, 2-0. Francisco Cervelli and Brent Morel followed with singles but were stranded.
Liriano carried a no-hitter through four innings. He issued a walk to Clint Robinson to start the fifth, then Ian Desmond singled to left. A pair of wild pitches allowed Robinson to score and moved Desmond to third, where he was stranded after two more strikeouts and a groundout.
The Pirates recovered, upping their lead to 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth when Jung-Ho Kang doubled to plate Marte, then Kang, who had taken third on the throw home, scored on an Alvarez groundout.
The Pirates added three runs on two more homers -- McCutchen's two-run blast in the seventh and Francisco Cervelli's solo shot in the eighth in his return to the lineup.
After Jared Hughes and Antonio Bastardo each pitched clean innings, Arquimedes Caminero had a rocky ninth, serving up a pretty authoritative homer to Desmond.
Being in the park along the third-base line, I didn't have the best vantage point to see what Liriano had going, but he was clearly nasty, recording nine straight outs via strikeout in one span.
Kang had a solid night with two doubles. He, McCutchen, Marte and Cervelli each went 2-for-4. Pedro Florimon even got a hit after he came on as a defensive replacement in the late innings. That tells you what kind of night it was for the Pirates offense.
Fans were already encouraged by the trade in the afternoon, but the well-rounded win was particularly heartening coming off of a couple frustrating nights in Kansas City, and important heading into a scary-looking Max Scherzer-Jeff Locke pitching matchup on Friday.