Liriano helps Pirates break four-game losing streak

The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- If the Pittsburgh Pirates were feeling the strain of being on their longest losing streak of the season, they certainly didn't show it while sitting out a nearly three-hour rain delay before the start of Wednesday night's game.

"Our guys came up with a chant in the clubhouse: We like it long and wet," manager Clint Hurdle said with a smile. "We didn't end up getting wet, but it sure was long."

Francisco Liriano pitched seven shutout innings to win his fourth straight start, and Pedro Alvarez had two hits and two RBIs to lead the Pirates to a 5-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics at PNC Park, snapping their four-game skid.

The start was delayed two hours and 50 minutes, pushing the first pitch back to 9:55 p.m. ET. The final out was recorded at 12:48 a.m.

Liriano (9-3) allowed four hits and one walk while striking out six.

Liriano has allowed just four runs in 28 2/3 innings over his last four starts for a 1.26 ERA. He also continued his polar-opposite performance against the Athletics, as he has allowed one or no runs in six of his 13 starts vs. Oakland but has given up five or more runs four times.

"I just tried to stay ready as I could during the delay, keep moving around and staying loose," Liriano said. "I was ready to go when the game started. I just wanted to come out like any other game, pound the strike zone and keep my team in the game."

Justin Wilson and Jeanmar Gomez pitched one scoreless inning each to complete the five-hit shutout, the Pirates' 13th of the season. The Pirates have a 2.15 ERA in their last six games despite going 2-4.

Alvarez hit RBI singles during a three-run third inning and a two-run fourth as the Pirates put the game away early, nearly matching the six runs total they scored during the losing streak.

Starling Marte, Jose Tabata and Andrew McCutchen -- the top three hitters in the Pittsburgh batting order -- all had two hits each.

"We kept moving the chains, getting first downs," Hurdle said.

Oakland starter Tommy Milone (8-8) lasted just 2 2/3 innings and gave up three runs and seven hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Milone needed 80 pitches to get eight outs, including 48 in the third inning.

Milone has a 6.33 ERA in his last five starts, giving up 19 runs in 27 innings, though he is 2-2 in that span.

"Especially in that third inning, I was obviously throwing a lot of pitches and when you throw a lot of pitches at one time, I kind of toward the end there was feeling some fatigue," Milone said. "But I felt like I was still making some good pitches. They were doing a good job of putting the ball in play and falling. And even though they weren't hit very hard, you always give yourself a chance when you put the ball in play and that's what they were doing."

Coco Crisp had three of the Athletics' hits.

The Athletics had allowed just two runs while winning the first two runs of the three-game series, but Pittsburgh more than doubled that in salvaging the finale. Oakland lost for just the fourth time in 14 games.

Oakland stayed a half-game ahead of Texas in the American League West as the Rangers lost at Baltimore, 6-1.

In the third inning, Marte and Tataba hit back-to-back doubles to produce the first run, and McCutchen followed with an RBI single. Alvarez added a run-scoring single before Milone was lifted.

The Pirates increased their led to 5-0 in the fourth inning. Russell Martin singled in a run with two outs off Pat Neshek, and Alvarez greeted Jerry Blevins with an RBI single.

Sonny Gray, the Athletics' first-round draft pick in 2011, pitched two scoreless innings of relief in his major-league debut after being called up from Triple-A Sacramento earlier in the day.

"I thought he was really good," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. "You can have some nerves and sometimes that shows up in command -- but he was on it right away."

NOTES: Oakland All-Star RHP Bartolo Colon told the San Francisco Chronicle on Wednesday that he has not been contacted by Major League Baseball investigators concerning the Biogenesis case and knows nothing about the investigation. Colon was suspended 50 games by MLB last season for testing for high testosterone levels, which carried over to the first five games of this season. A second performance-enhancing drug suspension would result in a 100-game ban. ... Martin batted cleanup Wednesday for the first time since June 6, 2009, when he was playing with the Los Angeles Dodgers. ... Both teams are off Thursday before opening three-game home series Friday to end the season's first half. The Athletics play the Boston Red Sox, and the Pirates face the New York Mets.
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