Remember Francisco Liriano's last start, in which he struck out 13 Brewers and walked none? Remember how we all wondered whether he had turned a corner? Tonight in a 7-4 loss to the Mariners, he answered that question emphatically, and his answer was that no, he had not.
The only scoreless inning Liriano pitched was the first, and even then there were problems, as he issued two walks and a wild pitch. The Pirates did jump out to a big early lead in the bottom of the first thanks to a Gregory Polanco solo homer and an RBI triple from Starling Marte, who later came home himself on Jung Ho Kang's groundout. And after giving up a run-scoring double to Leonys Martin in the second, Liriano helped himself by smashing a Felix Hernandez fastball to center for just his second career big-league homer.
The thing about Liriano's weird transformation this year into the second coming of Micah Owings, though, is that we've had to deal with Owings' pitching, too. The Pirates' 4-1 lead quickly vanished in the third as Liriano allowed a solo homer to Franklin Gutierrez and a two-run shot to Kyle Seager. Liriano continued coughing up runs as one Mariner after another reached base in the fourth, and by the time he was done, the Bucs were behind 7-4. Liriano departed after 3.1 innings, having struck out three and walked four.
No one scored after that. We can, perhaps, wonder about whether things might have turned around for the Bucs had Adam Frazier been ruled safe in the sixth after sliding off the bag while hustling for an extra base, or whether the Pirates might have been able to do more after creating pretty good opportunities to score in the seventh and eighth. Their offense created, and then missed, a ton of opportunities, actually. But mostly this game came down to Liriano pitching very poorly.
Which is too bad. It was a great day for the Pirates' bullpen, which pitched 5.2 scoreless innings, including a total of three from deposed starters Jeff Locke and Jon Niese. Polanco also had four hits and a stolen base, while Frazier and Francisco Cervelli had two apiece. The Bucs' roster minus Liriano didn't play perfectly tonight, but it looked very much alive.