Another summer night in Pittsburgh ended well for the Pirates with Francisco Liriano on the mound.
Liriano earned his 12th win of season by throwing a two-hit shutout through seven innings Saturday night as the Pirates knocked off Colorado, 5-2, and regained a 1 1/2-game lead in the National League Central Division.
Liriano's ERA dropped to 2.02 with the outing, his latest gem in a year that has been a dream season not just for the revitalized franchise, but his own career.
"You always want good things to happen to you when you play this game. In life, too," Liriano said. "I'm not going to lie, I'm a little surprised, too. But I try not to think about it too much. I come in, get ready to play every five days. Hopefully we continue the way we're playing right now. We're having fun."
Pirates vs. Colorado Rockies, 1:35 p.m., PNC Park.
- TV, Radio:
Root Sports, KDKA-FM (93.7).
RHP A.J. Burnett (4-7, 2.86 ERA) vs. RHP Juan Nicasio (6-5, 4.92 ERA).
- Key matchup:
SS Troy Tulowitzki has a .374 average against the Pirates in 37 career games and a .250 average in four at-bats against Burnett. His only hit off Burnett was a home run.
- Hidden stat:
The Pirates are dominant when starters go six or more innings, with a record of 39-19 in those scenarios.
The Pirates (66-44) had 11 hits and manufactured timely run support by scoring in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings, including three off left-hander Jorge De La Rosa (10-6).
Andrew McCutchen doubled off the Clemente Wall in right in the third to score Starling Marte from second to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead.
Jose Tabata homered to center in the fourth for a 2-0 lead and Gaby Sanchez singled in Marte in the fifth to make it 3-0.
After a leadoff triple, Tabata scored on a squeeze play by Josh Harrison in the sixth that made it 4-0 and McCutchen scored in the seventh on a single by Sanchez.
Liriano struck out six, walked five and threw a wild pitch. He finished with 102 pitches, 63 strikes.
He has won his past three starts and is 7-1 this season at PNC Park.
"We talked about it before the game -- his ability to make good hitters take some not real aggressive, authoritative swings," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He was able to do that the first and third inning, the biggest parts of the ballgame through the middle of their lineup.
"And that's what he's been able to do more effectively this year than any other. When the runners have been on base, he's been able to slow the game down. Not going for the strikeouts, but he has a tendency to get them more. All six of them were in very critical spots from my viewpoint."
The Rockies got to the Pirates bullpen for two runs in the eighth.
Corey Dickerson scored on a line-drive single to third by Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Cuddyer singled in Dexter Fowler. Both runs were charged to Tony Watson, who gave up three hits.
Liriano got out of a first-inning jam when a wild pitch moved two runners into scoring position with one out.
He managed to strike out Cuddyer, who hit two solid foul balls down each base line, and got Willin Rosario to ground out to third.
He dodged trouble again in the third after two walks with one out.
He forced Tulowitzki to hit a ground ball to third and Cuddyer to fly out to center to get out of that inning.
But after that?
Liriano made easy work of the Rockies, giving up just a single and two walks from the fourth through the seventh.
The Pirates left three on base through two innings, then missed a golden chance to score in the first with a Jordy Mercer single and an McCutchen walk followed by a wild pitch.
That put both runners in scoring position but Gaby Sanchez and Tony Sanchez struck out to end the inning.
The Pirates finished with 11 hits, including a double, triple and a home run. Tabata finished a double shy of hitting for the cycle.
"De La Rosa's command wasn't top shelf. I've seen him good. [Saturday night] wasn't one of his better nights from a command standpoint," Hurdle said. "We were ready for what he was bringing and we were able to control the at-bat from that point."
Jenn Menendez: email@example.com, 412-263-1959 and Twitter @JennMenendez. First Published August 4, 2013 2:30 AM