The top of the Pirates' lineup on Wednesday night brought the "early and often" cliche to life.
Barry Zito barely had left the bullpen after warm-ups before Starling Marte, Jordy Mercer and Andrew McCutchen had a foot on his throat. They led an offensive onslaught that resulted in a 12-8 win over the San Francisco Giants at PNC Park.
After scoring zero or one run in four of their past 10 games and averaging 2.5 runs per game on the previous road trip, the Pirates scored at least eight runs for the second night in a row.
Zito (4-5) had a 10.19 ERA across 17 2/3 innings in four road starts this season. Wednesday night, the Pirates roughed him up for 11 hits and eight runs in 4 2/3 innings.
For the second game in a row, the Pirates worked their way into the Giants' bullpen in the fifth inning. Tim Lincecum also pitched 4 2/3 innings Tuesday night.
Marte and Mercer led off the bottom of the first with singles, putting men on first and third. McCutchen's single scored Marte.
Marte, Mercer and McCutchen again had consecutive hits in the third. This time, McCutchen hit a two-run double to left-center. Gaby Sanchez followed with a single to put men on first and third. Russell Martin's double play ball scored McCutchen and gave the Pirates a 4-1 lead.
The top of the order finally forced Zito from the game in the fifth. Marte and Mercer singled to lead off the inning's bottom half, again. McCutchen struck out looking, the first time Zito retired one of the first three Pirates batters all game. Sanchez walked to load the bases.
Martin grounded into a force-out that scored a run. Pedro Alvarez's RBI double caused the Giants to remove Zito, and Neil Walker hit a two-run single off Jose Mijares to give the Pirates an 8-4 lead.
A pinch-hit home run from Alex Presley and an RBI double from Sanchez added two runs in the sixth. In the seventh, Walker's fifth homer of the season was originally ruled a double but overturned upon video review.
Liriano (5-2) finished six innings and allowed four runs on eight hits and three walks. He entered the game after walking five batters but allowing no runs on two hits in his previous start, when he pitched seven innings against the Chicago Cubs. He had allowed one run and 19 strikeouts in his past two starts, a span of 13 innings.
Hunter Pence drove in the Giants' first run in the first inning. Leadoff batter Andres Torres walked and eventually reached third on two ground-ball outs. Pence doubled to the gap in right-center, scoring Torres.
Liriano walked Brandon Belt on four pitches to start the second inning and allowed a single to Juan Perez. He then worked out of the jam by starting a 1-6-3 double play and getting a weak grounder from Zito to end the inning.
Pence doubled for the second time to start the fourth inning. Liriano did not reach the first-base bag in time on Belt's weak grounder to Sanchez, allowing Pence to reach third with one out instead of two. McCutchen slid to catch Juan Perez's liner to center, but Pence scored to cut the lead to 4-2.
Liriano allowed two runs to tie it in the fifth. Torres and Tony Abreu singled. Liriano struck out Buster Posey looking on an outside slider, but walked Pence to load the bases. Arias singled to center, scoring two runs and tying the game at 4-4.
Bill Brink: email@example.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published June 13, 2013 2:45 AM