Jordy Mercer launched a three-run HR and Francisco Liriano dominated for seven and two-thirds innings as the Pirates blanked the Cubs in Wrigley Field, 4-0. The win gave the Pirates the first two games of a three-game series, with a chance at a sweep tomorrow against Jake Arrieta.
Liriano was seldom in trouble. He retired the first eight batters he faced before allowing a pair of two-out singles in the 3rd. He gave up a leadoff double in the 4th, but pitched out of it. Nobody else got past first base against him until the 8th, when he walked Addison Russell to lead off the inning and then Kris Bryant with two out. Antonio Bastardo came in to get Anthony Rizzo on a fly ball. Liriano finished with four hits and three walks allowed. He fanned nine.
Meanwhile, the Pirates had little success against Jason Hammel through the first four innings. Their only runners came on one-out doubles by Travis Snider in the 1st and Andrew McCutchen in the 4th. In the 5th, though, Francisco Cervelli and Pedro Alvarez opened the inning with singles, and Mercer followed with his 3rd HR, to left-center. The suddenly slugging Liriano, who had two hits on the day, followed with a single and Starling Marte with another to chase Hammel. A walk to McCutchen eventually loaded the bases with one out, but Aramis Ramirez and Neil Walker failed to get a run in. The offense remained quiet until the 8th, when Cervelli singled with one out and Sean Rodriguez doubled him home with a very useful run that assured Mark Melancon a day off. Joakim Soria pitched an uneventful 9th to close it out.
The Pirates now lead the Cubs by five and a half for the first wild card, with just seven (or eight, for the Cubs) games left. It also leaves them for now just two and a half games behind the slumping Cardinals (for them, one loss sure seems like a slump, at least). The Cards play the Brewers tonight.