LOS ANGELES – Francisco Liriano waited two months, 11 starts, and many frustrating innings before an elusive first win of the season was his.
Mark Friday night at Dodger Stadium down.
Liriano went 5 2/3 scoreless innings, gave up five hits, two walks and struck out eight as he battled his way through the Dodgers lineup on the way to a 2-1win in his 12th start of the year.
Liriano got out of a big bases loaded jam in the fifth, came one out away from finishing the sixth, and left the game at 100 pitches, with a 2-0 lead, leaving the rest to his bullpen.
“It’s a good feeling to get the first win out of the way. It was a long time,” said Liriano, who admitted some frustration had set in. “To be honest, yeah. I feel like I wasn’t doing my job. An outing like this tonight is nice. It’s a great feeling, not just for me, but the whole team.”
Justin Wilson struck out Andre Ethier to end the sixth inning, Tony Watson used nine pitches to lock down the seventh.
Mark Melancon gave up a run on two hits in the eighth as the Dodgers threatened, but closer Jason Grilli put the Dodgers down in order for the save as the Pirates took a 2-0 series lead.
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“Great mix of pitches, the changeups worked real well. Never gave in, stayed focused and just was aggressive,” said manager Clint Hurdle. “He made pitches when he had to. The changeup was a big pitch to the right-handers through the middle of the lineup. Just real good to see him pitch like that. To get a W for the bullpen to cover him on the back end. For us to score one more run than them. Good night for baseball, for Pirate baseball here.”
The Pirates offered some early run support, when Neil Walker singled in Clint Barmes off Dodgers starter Josh Beckett in the third inning to build a 1-0 lead.
It might have been 2-0 at that point had Starling Marte not gotten picked off at second base by catcher Drew Butera with Liriano at bat. Harrison eventually singled, moving Barmes to second, but could have likely driven in Marte.
Ike Davis built on the lead in the fourth inning, driving a 2-1 Beckett fastball deep over the center field wall to open the fourth inning and give the Pirates a 2-0 lead. The estimated distance was 453 feet and it served as the game-winner.
Beckett was fresh off a 128-pitch no-hitter, but gave up five hits in five innings, two earned runs, one walk, and one home run. He struck out five.
“He still pitched really well. His stuff was really good,” said Davis. “His location was really good. We scored just enough runs to be able to beat him but didn’t do too much off him. Our pitchers were amazing today. It’s hard to beat the Dodgers scoring only two runs.”
The run support helped Liriano buckle in.
Liriano struck out Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez in the first inning, but took 21 pitches to get through the frame.
He put the Dodgers down in order in the second inning very efficiently, and sat at 32 pitches after two innings.
Puig singled on a dribbler back to Liriano in the fourth, and took second on a throwing error to first by Liriano. But he proceeded to get out of the inning by with a pair of strikeouts and groundout.
Liriano got into and out of a major jam in the fifth inning after giving up a leadoff double to Andre Ethier.
Two outs later Dee Gordon singled and Chone Figgins drew an 11-pitch walk to load the bases for Puig.
Liriano fell behind 2-0 in the count, worked a changup-slider combination to draw 2-2 and got Puig to pop up to second on a changeup to end the inning.
“Francisco pitched just a big league ball game,” said Hurdle. “He pitched out of the stretch most of the night. The leadoff hitter reached base five out of six (times), the at-bat to (Chone) Figgins and to get Puig. That’s just a classic match-up on a Friday night in front of 47,000. It’s just good stuff. So many important pitches through that sequence of two hitters.”
Ramirez hit a leadoff double in the sixth, but Liriano got a groundout and big strikeout of Scott Van Slyke with a runner on third before Hurdle went to Wilson for the final out.
Hurdle spoke at length prior to Friday’s game about a conversation he had with his left-hander that he hoped would take some burden off him.
Liriano entered the game 0-5 with a 5.06 ERA in 11 starts.
Hurdle said he probed Liriano for the challenges in his past, in order to offer perspective, and point out how well things are going now.
“You’re healthy. You have thrown sequences of pitches. You haven’t lost velocity,” said Hurdle. “These are things that are still in play.”
He said he also played devil’s advocate, trying to get to the heart of what might be troubling him.
“What’s the worst thing that can happen? You keep paring it down they finally get to the place, I just need to pitch,” said Hurdle. “He’s going to have a job next year. He’s going to have a contract that’s going to be worthy. It’s not like this guy is pitching trying to stay alive in the major leagues. With his makeup, the way he works, I told him, this is the biggest challenge – you just continue to push through this. I believe he will.”
The club will send right-hander Brandon Cumpton (0-1, 3.38 ERA) to the mound tonight against lefty Hyun-jin Ryu (5-2, 3.10 ERA).
Sunday’s 8:05 p.m. game, pitting righty-hander’s Edinson Volquez (2-4, 4.30 ERA) against Zack Greinke (8-1, 2.18) was moved to ESPN from ESPN2.
■ Game: Pirates vs. Los Angeles Dodgers.
■ When: 7:15 p.m.
■ Where: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles.
■ TV, Radio: WPGH, KDKA FM (93.7).
Jenn Menendez: email@example.com and Twitter @JennMenendez.
First Published May 31, 2014 1:37 AM