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Francisco Liriano shoves, Pirates take series from Reds

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Francisco Liriano didn't walk a soul and the Pirates' offense eventually did enough against the struggling Alfredo Simon in a 5-1 victory over the Reds on a rainy Saturday night at PNC Park.

The win secured a series victory over the Reds, something that apparently happened twice late last season but seems implausible in my memory.

Liriano struck out six and allowed one run on five hits in 6 2-3 innings. He hadn't walked fewer than three in a start this season, and that was in six innings last Sunday -- he even walked five in his excellent opening day start. He punctuated this outing by getting two strikeouts looking in the sixth, most impressively catching Joey Votto on a pitch Votto didn't even bother to argue.

John Jaso gave Liriano an early 1-0 lead, smacking a home run to right-center on Simon's first pitch of the game. The Reds tied it, 1-1, in the fifth when Billy Hamilton raced around from first and beat the tag on a Zack Cozart double.

The Pirates quickly retook the lead in the bottom of the fifth. David Freese singled and Starling Marte got hit by a pitch to start the inning, then a Cervelli single and Josh Harrison sacrifice fly plated a man each. Rogers Hornsby Sean Rodriguez added on with a two-run homer in the eighth.

Marte got hit by two pitches on the night. The fifth-inning plunk had to be awarded by video review, but it was the scarier one, as Marte took a 95 MPH fastball off the hand. That's an occupational hazard with the way Marte bats. It's certainly a nice OBP boost but it's good for a big scare to Pirates fans once every few weeks or so.

Neftali Feliz got one out, picking up for Liriano in the seventh, then Tony Watson pitched a clean eighth. With a four-run lead, A.J. Schugel put a couple runners on so, for the second straight night, Mark Melancon faced one batter, this time striking Cozart out on three pitches.

The Reds, of all teams, were a major pain for the Pirates last season, so taking a series feels particularly nice at this point. And it appears they'll go for the sweep on Sunday against Some Dude instead of Raisel Iglesias: