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Liriano pitches Pirates to eighth win in a row

The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- Francisco Liriano does not have a detailed explanation for why he has pitched so well at PNC Park in his first season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. All he knows is he has a comfortable feeling when he takes the mound in his home park.

"It's all about location for me and I just seem to locate the ball better here, especially throwing the fastball for strikes," the left-hander said. "It's that and guys making good plays for me."

Liriano has revived his career since signing with the Pirates in the offseason. He pitched another gem at PNC Park on Saturday night, working six strong innings in a 2-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Pirates won their eighth consecutive game and improved their best-in-baseball record to 50-30. It is Pittsburgh's longest winning streak since the Pirates won 10 straight in 2004.

Liriano (7-3) allowed only one run while scattering seven hits with one walk and six strikeouts. He is 4-1 with a 2.05 ERA in five home starts since beginning the season on the disabled list with a broken right arm.

Liriano had struggled in recent seasons with the Minnesota Twins, but the Pirates decided to take a flier on him as a free agent in the offseason.

"(General manager) Neal Huntington thought he had a chance to be successful as a left-handed pitcher in this ballpark," Hurdle said, referring to PNC Park having a 410-foot gap in left-center field.

"Frankie, for as efficient as he was in this game, giving up one run, there were only about six or seven sequences where he threw back-to-back strikes. But when he needed to make a pitch, he made a pitch."

Tony Watson, Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli each pitched one scoreless inning, with Grilli posting his 27th save in 28 opportunities.

The Pirates, who have had 20 losing seasons in a row, drew their fifth sellout crowd in a row, a record since they moved into PNC Park in 2001. The crowd of 38,348 was roaring when Grilli got Logan Schafer on a grounder for the final out.

"The energy of the crowds has been unbelievable and we've been soaking it all up," Grilli said. "You absorb it and try to use it to your advantage. We're playing for ourselves, but we're also playing for about 40,000 people in the stands and an entire city. People are dusting off their Pirates shirts and coming out in droves and we're trying to give them what they want to see."

Pedro Alvarez and Garrett Jones both hit solo home runs for the Pirates. Alvarez extended his hitting streak to 12 games, setting a career high.

Alvarez hit a solo shot that cleared the right-field stands in the second inning to open the scoring. It was team-high 20th homer of the season.

Jones homered to the shrubbery in center field to lead off the fourth and increase Pittsburgh's lead to 2-0. It was his seventh of the year.

The Brewers (32-47) lost their fifth straight game, though Donovan Hand (0-1) turned in a solid effort in his second major-league start, allowing the two home runs among five hits in five innings, with no walks and two strikeouts.

"I tried to go up and in and left a fat pitch over the middle in his hot zone and he crushed it," said Hand, who pitched 4 2-3 scoreless innings in his first start June 28 against Atlanta. "I was aggressive, which is exactly what I wanted to do, just building off of the last start because they swing it a lot."

Hand has made a good impression on Brewers manager Ron Roenicke.

"I thought Donnie threw the ball really well," Roenicke said. "He understands how to pitch. He understands how to throw strikes."

Carlos Gomez had two hits for the Brewers and scored their lone run, in the sixth, when he hit a one-out single and scored on Yuniesky Betancourt's two-out single.

NOTES: Milwaukee 2B Rickie Weeks' career-high 13-game hitting streak ended as he went 0-for-3 with a walk. ... The Pirates have won four straight games and eight of 10 against Milwaukee after losing nine in a row. ... Milwaukee LF Ryan Braun (bruised left thumb) is scheduled to a swing a bat Tuesday for the first time since going on the disabled list retroactive to June 10. ... Pittsburgh LHP Wandy Rodriguez (strained left forearm) will not make a scheduled rehab start on Monday for Triple-A Indianapolis after experiencing discomfort in his forearm on Friday during a bullpen session. ... Pirates RHP Sean Burnett (strained right calf) is scheduled to pitch a simulated game on Tuesday and that could be the last step before he is activated from the disabled list. ... Brewers RF Norichika Aoki flied out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning but did not start for the first time since May 30 as Roenicke decided to rest him. ... The three-game series concludes Sunday with Milwaukee RHP Kyle Lohse (3-6, 3.69) facing Pittsburgh RHP Charlie Morton (1-1, 2.81).
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