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By Art Garcia, The Sports Xchange September 11, 2013 12:09 AM
Francisco Liriano was solid and Andrew McCutchen drove in three runs to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 5-4 win over the Texas Rangers Tuesday night at Rangers Ballpark.ARLINGTON, Texas --
"We battled on the mound, battled at the plate," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "At the end we were one run better." The Pirates (83-61) have taken the first two games of this critical series that ends Wednesday afternoon. Texas (81-63) has already lost its fourth consecutive series. "It's not hard to keep morale up," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "We're two out. We just have to keep grinding. Pretty soon it will turn around." Both teams are leading their respective Wild Card races while trying to chase down division leaders. Pittsburgh trails St. Louis by a game in the NL Central. The Rangers are two back of Oakland in the AL West. Liriano improved to 16-7 with a six-inning stint, giving up just one run and striking out five. He's the first Pittsburgh left-hander to win at least 16 games in a season in 22 years. "Not his finest outing," Hurdle said. "Blue-collar effort." The Pirates roughed up Texas starter Martin Perez, who had a club-rookie-record six-game winning streak snapped. Perez (9-4) was done in the sixth inning, having given up four runs on nine hits. "He was up in the zone, especially when he got two outs," Washington said. "That's something he doesn't normally do." Down 4-1, Texas tried to come back in the eighth. Adrian Beltre's two-out RBI single closed the gap to 4-2, and A.J. Pierzynski doubled, putting the tying runs in scoring position. The rally ended there. Pittsburgh reliever Tony Watson struck out Jeff Baker to send the game into the ninth. The Pirates answered with a run in the ninth on McCutchen's third RBI to make it 5-2. "It was good to get the lead and tack on a few," said Jordy Mercer, who had a career-high four hits. "You never know what's going to happen." Something nearly happened in the bottom of the ninth. Mark Melancon gave up two runs on four two-out hits before finally closing it down to seal the victory. He fanned Beltre with two on for his 13th save. "He's got one of the best hitters in the game to finish it off," Hurdle said. "Beltre is having numbers of an MVP-type season." The Pirates put some pressure on Perez in the second and third innings, getting two on with one out both times. A double play ended the first threat. Perez wasn't as lucky in the third. The lefty did have a shot at another double play, but he couldn't handle a comebacker by McCutchen. A late throw home allowed Tony Sanchez to score from third for a 1-0 Pittsburgh lead. The Pirates added three more runs in the fifth with a two-out rally. Mercer doubled down the left-field line, advanced on an error by Craig Gentry, and scored on McCutchen's single. Back-to-back singles by Marlon Byrd and Gaby Sanchez, plus a Perez wild pitch, pushed the lead to 4-0. As he's done to foes throughout the season, Liriano kept the Rangers off balance. Texas hitters had four hits through four innings, but also struck out four times and couldn't get a runner past second. Texas did end a 15-inning scoring drought in the fifth on Ian Kinsler's two-out double to score Joey Butler. McCutchen had a bead on Kinsler's sinking liner, but couldn't hold onto the ball as he tried to make a sliding catch. NOTES: Texas is going to start the 2014 season with Philadelphia at home, while Pittsburgh opens with the Chicago Cubs at home. Schedules for next season were released Tuesday. ... Rangers manager Ron Washington said the fifth starting spot, which comes up Tuesday at Tampa Bay, is tentatively set to belong to RHP Nick Tepesch. That could change, Washington added, with RHP Alexi Ogando an option to move back into the rotation. ... Pittsburgh is 8-1 in interleague road games. ... Texas went into Tuesday having stolen 18 consecutive bases without being thrown out, going back to Aug. 26. Alex Rios made it 19 in a row in the first inning before Elvis Andrus was caught stealing in the third.