CHICAGO -- In Francisco Liriano's first career start at Wrigley Field, he eventually learned why it's often called the Friendly Confines.
Liriano battled control issues with his fastball, slider and changeup but still pitched seven shutout innings Friday to lift the Pirates to a 2-0 victory against the Cubs.
"Everything went the way I wanted, but location-wise, I didn't feel that good," Liriano said. "I was missing my spots a lot, I walked so many guys."
Though he walked a season-high five batters, Liriano allowed just two hits and struck out eight Cubs to earn his fourth victory of the year.
He started the season on the disabled list after a fracture to the humerus bone in his right, non-throwing arm. But since his return May 11, Liriano (4-2) has a 1.75 ERA. Friday was the second time this season he pitched seven shutout innings. The other was also against the Cubs on May 22 at PNC Park.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle credited catcher Russell Martin for his game-calling, especially since Liriano didn't have great command.
"His best pitches have been off-speed pitches for the most part," Martin said. "And we kind of use his fastball in normally breaking ball situations. He's good at pitching backward, and he's been effective."
With the win, the Pirates (36-25) now have as many shutout victories (10) as they did all last season. Three of them have come against the Cubs, and none of them have been the result of a complete game by the starter.
"We just bear down," said closer Jason Grilli, who picked up his league-leading 23rd save. "I think the close ballgames, for any pitcher, you just get locked in."
Of those 10 shutout victories, seven have come by three runs or fewer.
"Everybody out there has contributed and stayed sharp in not letting games get away," Hurdle said. "That's something we've been adept at doing."
Jordy Mercer hit two doubles and scored the go-ahead run in the sixth inning. Martin had an RBI double and drew a walk in the eighth that turned into an insurance run.
Mercer also made a nifty catch in the first inning, racing into the outfield to snare a fly ball above a sliding Andrew McCutchen.
"I knew he was going to go low," Mercer said. "He always slides low. So I just told myself 'Stay up, stay up, don't try to dive for it and hopefully he'll slide underneath me.' He said he was right underneath it, though, and that if I hadn't caught it, he would have caught it. That's good backup right there."
Mercer hit his first double when he took an off-speed pitch from Cubs starter Travis Wood and smacked it down the left-field line for the Pirates' first extra-base hit of the game. Three batters later, Martin followed with his RBI double, which fell in the left-field corner and rolled back to the ivy.
Wood (5-4) took the hard-luck loss, allowing one earned run on four hits in six innings.
Wood had the Cubs' first hit, a one-out, line drive single to left field in the fifth. That started a bit of a rally for the Cubs (24-34).
After Darwin Barney hit into a fielder's choice, Liriano issued his fifth walk to put runners on first and second. A wild pitch allowed Barney and Cody Ransom to advance to second and third.
But Liriano struck out Anthony Rizzo to escape trouble.
Command issues also put Liriano in a jam in the fourth, when he walked two batters. Alfonso Soriano nearly gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead, missing a home run by mere feet in center field.
"I was so happy I got away with that pitch because I put it right down the middle," Liriano said.
Someone quipped to Liriano that it was a good day to have the wind blowing in at Wrigley.
"Yeah," Liriano said with a laugh. "It's a great day for that."
Michael Sanserino: email@example.com, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino. First Published June 7, 2013 9:30 PM