Bats back Liriano as Bucs roll past White Sox
PITTSBURGH -- Francisco Cervelli highlighted a five-run first-inning with a two-run triple and orchestrated batterymate Francisco Liriano's two-hit pitching for eight innings Monday night as the Pirates downed the White Sox, 11-0, for their fifth consecutive win.
Chicago rookie lefty Carlos Rodon trailed 5-0 before retiring a man in the first, as Josh Harrison's leadoff walk led to five consecutive hits, Cervelli's triple -- his second since 2010 -- was preceded by singles by Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Jung Ho Kang and followed by an RBI single by Jose Tabata.
"That was great to see," McCutchen said of the offensive breakout in the wake of the Pirates having scored a total of nine runs in the first six games of their current homestand. "It lets the starter breathe a little bit, settle in, so he doesn't have to battle from the beginning."
Rodon said his fastball command wasn't great, leaving too many pitches over the heart of the plate. All five of the Pirates' first inning hits came on fastballs.
"[The Pirates are] a good hitting club, and it's the big leagues," Rodon said. "Anyone can hit."
Despite the nine runs in the previous six games, the Bucs still won four of them due to the fabulous pitching Liriano continued, as he struck out 12 with one walk. The season-best 18-hit attack was led by four apiece by Harrison and Marte.
Chicago's only hits were Melky Cabrera's single to lead off the fifth, and an infield single by Alexei Ramirez to lead off the seventh.
"It was a good overall team effort, especially off the mound, with Frank," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
Rodon lasted 3 2/3 innings, allowing nine hits and seven earned runs, in taking his first loss in three decisions, his ERA increasing from 2.66 to 3.86.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura noted that not everything was so bad to start -- center fielder Adam Eaton led off the game by hustling to first on a fielding error.
"After that, I don't know what we did well," Ventura said. "There wasn't anything that was good about it. ... It's that simple."
While being two-hit, the White Sox grounded into three double plays and committed three errors.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Catching zeros: When Cervelli called for the pitch Carlos Sanchez bounced into a double play to end the fifth inning, it completed the Buccos catcher's 38th consecutive scoreless inning behind the plate -- matching the longest shutout stretch by a Pittsburgh receiver in 43 years. Manny Sanguillen caught 38 straight shutout frames May 17-23, 1972. And Cervelli, of course, wasn't done, extending his streak to 42 innings by game's end. More >
"He's really big for me," Liriano said of Cervelli. "We talk before the game and between innings, and we're always on the same page. And he blocks a lot of pitches I throw in the dirt."
Losing Harrison: Rodon's first inning was a struggle, from his wild pitch to Cervelli's triple. But the five-run frame might not have happened if it weren't for Harrison's patience at the plate. The second baseman didn't need to lift the bat off his shoulders to get the game-altering scoring parade going -- he watched seven pitches go by, the last one being ball four on a 3-2 count. Harrison reaching, and darting around the bases to score the game's first run, applied pressure on Rodon early -- and the left-hander cracked. More >
Doubling up: There wasn't much doubt after the five-run first inning, but for insurance purposes the Pirates continued to tack it on with extra-base hits in the fourth, fifth and sixth. Over that three-frame span, the Pirates used five doubles -- two from Jordy Mercer -- to more than double up their first inning total, getting two, one and three runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, respectively.
"We've probably been on a streak where our starting pitching has been as good, or better, than at any other time since I've been here." -- Hurdle, on the Pirates' starting pitchers
"Get out of here with that. You really expect me to comment on that? No. What place do I have to comment on a manager? I mean, seriously. What place do I have? I don't. I work here, and that's what I do. I don't have a place to comment on what Robin's doing. I go out there, and he tells me what to do, and I do it. ... I go out and do my job, it doesn't matter who's managing." -- Eaton, on criticism of Ventura and his staff
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
In their last eight starts, dating back to the final game of their recent road trip and reflecting nearly two whole turns through the rotation, Pirates starting pitchers have allowed five earned runs over 58 1/3 innings, for a collective ERA of 0.77.
The White Sox's tough night included the unsuccessful challenge of a play at first base in the bottom of the seventh inning of an 11-0 game. Ramirez's high-and-wide throw from shortstop on Sean Rodriguez's one-out grounder pulled Abreu off the first-base bag, but the first baseman tried to apply a tag as Rodriguez crossed the bag. Umpire Bruce Dreckman's safe call was challenged by Ventura, but was upheld on replay review.
White Sox: Southpaw Jose Quintana will make his first career start against the Pirates when the White Sox play their second game in Pittsburgh at 6:05 p.m. CT on Tuesday. He'll look to improve his 2-3 record and 4.33 ERA in road starts this season.
Pirates: The Bucs wrap up the home portion of the four-game set with the White Sox when Charlie Morton, seeking to run his two-season winning streak to six straight starts, faces Chicago at 7:05 p.m. ET in PNC Park. Morton was 1-3 in Interleague Play in 2014.
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