The Pirates had opportunities to overcome another poor outing by Francisco Liriano and beat the Rangers today. But the Rangers' lefty starter Martin Perez got key outs when he needed them, the Rangers bullpen again held the Pirates scoreless, and the Rangers beat the Pirates 6-2 to earn their eighth straight home-series win.
The Pirates took an early 2-0 lead. They stormed out of the gates in the first with doubles by Jordy Mercer and Andrew McCutchen, scoring the game's first run, but the rally died when McCutchen was tagged out at second on David Freese's comebacker to the mound, Jung Ho Kang struck out, and Starling Marte grounded out. Freese added to his legacy as a Rangers killer with a solo homer to right center in the third.
Liriano escaped a leadoff double by Bryan Holaday in the third, and the Pirates then failed to extend their lead in the top of the fourth. Francisco Cervelli, serving as DH today, led off with a single that was followed by a double in the gap by Sean Rodriguez, starting again in place of the still-woozy Josh Harrison. With runners on second and third and no outs, Perez retired Matt Joyce, who started in right field in place of a resting Gregory Polanco, on a good play by first-baseman Mitch Moreland. Then with a drawn-in infield, Chris Stewart grounded to second. Perez fell behind Jordy Mercer 3-0 but then came back to strike him out looking.
Perez's heroics in the fourth set the stage for Liriano to fall apart in the bottom of the inning. Prince Fielder broke a homerless drought of 128 at bats, the longest of his career, by depositing a poorly placed fastball into the seats. Liriano's fastball today was mostly in the 91-92 mph range, and he was unable to put it where he wanted. He walked Adrian Beltre and Ryan Rua around a fly out to deep right field by Nomar Mazara, and then Moreland crushed another poorly placed fastball for a three-run homer that gave the Rangers a 4-2 lead. The two homers were the first that Liriano had given up to left-handed batters this season, to go along with nine to right-handers. He also leads the league in bases on balls. Not good.
The Pirates failed to convert other chances in the sixth and eighth. Marte laid down a beautiful bunt single to lead off the sixth, and Cervelli followed with his second hit of the day. Rodriguez popped up and Joyce struck out, with Marte moving to third on a stolen base, but after almost scoring Marte with a surprise bunt single that just went foul, Stewart grounded out. In the eighth against reliever Tony Barnette, Marte doubled with one out, but Cervelli grounded out and Rodriguez struck out. On the day, the Pirates were one for 10 with runners in scoring position, as they were yesterday. Also not good.
The Rangers scored two more, one made possible in the sixth by two more Liriano walks to Mazara and Rua, and the other by a Chris Stewart throwing error on a wild pitch/strikeout by Rob Scahill that should have ended the seventh.
It was a dispiriting game against a good team in a series that began with great promise, then fizzled. Maybe Miami will be better.