Francisco Liriano hit a wildly improbable three-run homer Saturday afternoon, thus helping the Pirates offense overcome his own underwhelming pitching and early exit as the Bucs beat the Dodgers 6-5.
The Dodgers scored first. Jimmy Rollins singled to lead off the game, and Howie Kendrick reached on a force play in which Rollins was ruled out at second on replay. (Get ready for lots and lots of replay in this game.) Then Liriano hit Adrian Gonzalez and gave up an RBI single to Scott Van Slyke.
The Pirates tied it in the bottom of the inning, however. Gregory Polanco walked, and Starling Marte replaced him on the bases on an unusual force out in which Polanco held up between first and second to make sure Marte's hit fell in, and got gunned down by Yasiel Puig at second. Marte then stole a base and came home as Andrew McCutchen fought through an 11-pitch at-bat for a single.
The Dodgers went up 2-1 in the second as Liriano gave up a series of singles, including one to pitcher Mat Latos. But that's when things got weird. Jung-Ho Kang and Neil Walker singled, and Francisco Cervelli reached on a fielder's choice as Kang got thrown out at home. Liriano came up with two outs and two on, and Latos threw a fastball up and away. That became Liriano's homer, and he did it in the most Liriano way possible, leaning weirdly away from the pitch before hitting it and taking the world's slowest home-run trot after depositing it in the left-field seats. It was his first ever extra-base hit, and it looked like it, too. Unsurprisingly, the crowd couldn't get enough.
Liriano appeared to touch his chest as he crossed home plate, and an inning later, he exited. There was no official word on what, if anything, happened, and it appeared he might be injured, but Clint Hurdle now says Liriano isn't hurt. Instead, he was removed only because he wasn't pitching well and had racked up 79 pitches through three innings. Liriano says he did feel something in his right armpit area, but he should be fine to make his next start.
Before his exit, though, he gave up a two-run shot to Enrique Hernandez in the third. The Pirates had an out call upheld later on to end the Dodgers' half of the inning. In the bottom half, they scored two themselves as McCutchen led off with a double and scored via a couple of groundouts. Neil Walker then hit a Latos slider way over the Clemente Wall for a solo homer.
Anyway, with all that scoring and those two replays, those first three innings dragged on for what seemed like hours, but the game sped up considerably once Joe Blanton entered. (There's a sentence you don't read every day.) Blanton pitched three scoreless innings, striking out three, and handed the Pirates' bullpen a two-run lead. (He was the beneficiary of another overturned call in the fifth, when he got Alex Guerrero to ground into what was finally ruled a double play.) Joakim Soria took the seventh inning and Tony Watson the eighth, each getting a double play to keep the Dodgers off the board.
Mark Melancon gave up a run in the ninth on an RBI double by Van Slyke, but the Pirates got another overturned call on a close play that was eventually ruled an out at first. For those scoring at home, that meant the Pirates were 4-for-4 on replays today; the game might well have turned out quite differently if they hadn't been. Melancon finally managed to whiff Yasmani Grandal to end it.
The Pirates have now won three games in a row and are now 20 games above .500 for the first time this season.