NEW YORK -- The sun found the Pirates Saturday on a dreary day at Citi Field.
Francisco Liriano missed bats immediately after coming off the disabled list, displaying the version of his stuff the Pirates hoped they'd acquired during the winter. Jose Tabata served as the point man on another assault of the New York Mets' pitching staff. Jordy Mercer muscled two balls through the cold air and out of Citi Field.
The combination gave the Pirates an 11-2 win against the Mets, their second in a row, and completed Liriano's journey back to the major leagues after a troublesome winter.
Liriano (1-0) allowed one run on six hits in 5 1/3 innings. He walked only two, a good sign considering his control history, and struck out nine. His changeup fooled the Mets' batters, his fastball hit 93 miles per hour and he still has that slider that has given him an out pitch for so long.
The injury that delayed Liriano's preseason, a broken right humerus, affected his range of motion and kept him from pitching at the start of spring training. Once he could move, he prepared like any other spring.
The Pirates had a season-high 16 hits. Tabata went 4 for 5 and fell a triple shy of the cycle. He has nine hits in his past 16 at-bats.
Mercer hit two home runs, his second and third of the season. His first homer came in the fifth, the start of a big inning for the Pirates, off Mets starter Jonathan Niese. Mercer hit his second off the facing of the second deck in left field in the eighth inning against Robert Carson.
Mercer joined the Pirates when Neil Walker went on the disabled list. Beginning today, Walker can return at any time. Mercer, who hit well in Class AAA Indianapolis before the Pirates recalled him, has made a case to stay.
Clint Barmes started the scoring in the second inning. His bases-loaded single gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead, but that's all they got out of the inning.
The top of the order added three runs in the third. Starling Marte singled and eventually scored from second on Andrew McCutchen's bloop single. Tabata homered to left-center field, his second of the season, to put the Pirates ahead 4-0.
Nine Pirates went to the plate for the second consecutive game, this time in the fifth inning, and the Pirates scored five runs. Mercer hit a solo home run with one out. Niese then walked McCutchen and Gaby Sanchez. Tabata doubled, his third hit of the game, to score one run and force Niese from the game. Michael McKenry's single scored two more.
Barmes delivered the final blow, sneaking a single up the middle to score McKenry and giving the Pirates a 9-0 lead.
Niese tied a career high with eight runs allowed on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings.
Bryan Morris nailed Jordany Valdespin, who flipped his bat after a home run Friday night, when Valdespin pinch-hit in the seventh inning. Valdespin took his time walking to first and threw in another bat toss.
The dark clouds rolling in from left field dumped rain on Citi Field just as the top of the ninth concluded, causing a 47-minute rain delay.
After two days of beating up on Niese and Shaun Marcum, the Pirates face a true test. Mets starter Matt Harvey, so far this season one of the best pitchers in the majors, takes the mound.
"The skill set that he's got, obviously, it's really good," a confident Hurdle said before the game. "If he doesn't make good pitches, it means nothing."
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published May 11, 2013 9:15 PM