SAN DIEGO - Another masterful performance is how Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle described Francisco Liriano's gem.
Liriano struck out 13 and blanked the San Diego Padres on four hits through seven innings as the Pirates recorded a 3-1 victory on Monday night.
"When you watch a man go out and pitch like that I think there is some appreciation that should be put in place," Hurdle said. "Obviously, he set the tone early with the fastball in and the breaking stuff and the change-up. In command, never panicked when he got some people on base (and) made pitches when he needed to get out of it."
Pedro Alvarez hit his National League-leading 31st home run and the Pirates also got two gift runs from San Diego to keep them a game ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals and 2 ½ of the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central.
The win also allowed the Pirates (73-51) to bounce back from Sunday's 4-2 loss in 16 innings to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Pittsburgh. They flew across country and beat the Padres (56-69) in the first meeting between the clubs this season.
Liriano (14-5), who walked two and threw 104 pitches (66 strikes) in seven innings, kept the Padres' hitters in check for much of the game. The Padres loaded the bases against him in the fourth, but Liriano induced Ronny Cedeno to ground into a fielder's choice to end the inning. After giving up a double to Chris Denorfia in the fifth, Liriano retired the final eight batters he faced.
"The last two starts I've been having pretty good command," said Liriano, whose strikeouts were the most by a Pirate since Oliver Perez fanned 14 Houston Astros on Sept. 9, 2004. "My pitches were working pretty good the last two starts. Hopefully, I can continue doing that.
"My slider was working pretty good. I've been getting a lot of swings and misses. Everything is going the way I want it to. I just try to continue that and go deep into games."
Justin Wilson retired the Padres in order in the eighth. Mark Melancon, who gave up an RBI double to Nick Hundley in the ninth, recorded his eighth save by striking out pinch hitter Mark Kotsay.
Alvarez drove an 85 mph slider from starter Andrew Cashner out to right with two outs in the sixth. He set a career high for homers, topping the mark he set last year, and he moved ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks' Paul Goldschmidt for the league lead.
"I just go out there and try to learn as much as I can and try to always see how I can help this team win ballgames," said Alvarez, who now has 18 home runs on the road, tops in the NL and fourth in the majors. "(Cashner) has good stuff. He demands that you're ready to hit on every pitch because the guy doesn't give you much to hit."
It was a tough luck outing for Cashner, who allowed three runs (one earned) on five hits in seven innings. He threw only 84 pitches (56 strikes) before being lifted for pinch hitter Jaff Decker. Cashner (8-8) walked two and struck out three.
"I have to make better pitches," said Cashner, who has allowed two earned runs or less in each of his last five starts at Petco. "When you are facing a guy like Liriano you have to be tough."
San Diego's Will Venable had his 15-game hitting streak snapped. Venable, the NL's Player of the Week, went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
The Pirates took advantage of a San Diego miscue to score twice in the fourth. Andrew McCutchen led off with a single and scored when Alvarez's single to right got past Denorfia and rolled to the wall. Alvarez also scored on the play for a 2-0 lead.
NOTES: Pirates LHP Wandy Rodriguez threw a bullpen session Monday in San Diego. Rodriguez, who has been out since June 6 with tightness in his left forearm, said he still felt discomfort in his arm. ... Pirates RHP James McDonald allowed two runs on two hits with a walk and a strikeout in two-thirds of an inning of a rehab start for the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Pirates on Monday. McDonald has been on the disabled list since May 7 with discomfort in his right shoulder. ... Pirates OF Travis Snider (toe) went 1-for-3 Monday in the first game of a rehab assignment with Double-A Altoona. ... Pittsburgh RHP Ryan Reid was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis. LHP Kris Johnson, who went six innings in relief Sunday in his big-league debut, was optioned to Indianapolis. ... The Padres recalled RHP Brad Boxberger from Triple-A Tucson and designated RHP Sean O'Sullivan for assignment. ... The game drew an announced crowd of 24,850 at Petco Park.