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Liriano whiffs 12 as Pirates sweep away Mets

PITTSBURGH -- Left-hander Francisco Liriano bounced back from his worst start of the season, completing a trio of dominant starting-pitching performances as the Pirates swept the Mets with a 9-1 win at PNC Park on Sunday.

Picking up where Gerrit Cole and A.J. Burnett left off, Liriano racked up 12 strikeouts, the most for any Pirates pitcher this season, and held the Mets to one run over six innings. It was a return to form for the Bucs' Opening Day starter, who allowed seven runs in two innings on Tuesday against the Twins.

Overall this weekend, the Pirates outscored the Mets, 21-4. Cole, Burnett and Liriano combined to strike out 32 Mets hitters in 21 1/3 innings.

"We needed this weekend. We needed to play some ball," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We played good team baseball this weekend. Everyone threw something in."

It was the first time the Mets have been swept by the Pirates since June 1-4, 2009. Left-hander Jon Niese gave up four runs on seven hits and four walks in just 4 2/3 innings, completing a rough weekend for the Mets' rotation.

Andrew McCutchen broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth inning with a two-run shot into the Mets' bullpen, his second homer in as many days. The Mets intentionally walked McCutchen in the sixth, and Starling Marte promptly broke the game open with a three-run shot to left off Erik Goeddel.

Video: NYM@PIT: McCutchen drives a two-run homer off Niese

"Pick your poison. That's the way I look at it," McCutchen said. "I guess they felt since Marte hadn't been swinging the bat the past few games, they could get him out. Nah, you can't do that either."

Liriano's Houdini act: The Mets began the second inning with a Daniel Murphy single and a double by John Mayberry Jr., putting two runners in scoring position. Any sort of contact likely would have given them a 1-0 lead. Instead, Liriano struck out Anthony Recker, Darrell Ceciliani and Ruben Tejada in order -- all of them swinging -- to strand both runners.

Video: NYM@PIT: Liriano strikes out 12 in six innings

"A lot of confidence after that," Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli said of Liriano.

Missing at the plate:. It wasn't just the second inning that tested the Mets in their seventh consecutive road loss. Playing without injured regulars David Wright, Travis d'Arnaud, Lucas Duda and Juan Lagares, the Mets struck out 12 times over the first six innings. They whiffed 36 times in the three-game series.

Video: NYM@PIT: Liriano fans Mayberry Jr. with bases loaded

"You look at the three guys we faced, they all have a strikeout an inning if not more," Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer said. "So they're strikeout pitchers. You start with that, and then I think it builds up. You tend to press. Any time you don't want to do something ... it ends up happening. You mix that with three guys that are studs right now, it results in what happened." More >

Mercer comes through: Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer started Sunday for only the second time since May 14. It's been a rough two months for Mercer, who entered the game batting .171. But he delivered a key hit in the fourth, bouncing an RBI double off the left-field fence to give Pittsburgh the game's first run.

Video: NYM@PIT: Mercer drives in Cervelli on double to left

Not so Niese: Niese became the third Mets starter this turn through the rotation to last fewer than five innings, going 4 2/3 frames and allowing four runs. Though Niese posted a 1.95 ERA over his first six starts, he has since gone 0-3 with 16 earned runs in 16 innings. More >

Video: NYM@PIT: Cervelli drives in Kang on single in the 5th

"We have a good offense. We haven't put it in play consistently. The team that we just played had the second-best ERA in the league coming in, and they don't give those away. You've got to pitch to get there, and they pitched to get there. We showed up on the other side of the ball." -- Hurdle

"We saw in the beginning of the year, we were pitching really good but the offensive part was quiet. We've got to combine them a little bit. If we can stay a long time the way we're going right now, it's going to be good." -- Cervelli

Cole struck out 10 batters on Friday, Burnett fanned 10 on Saturday and Liriano finished with 12 on Sunday. It was the third time since 1900 -- and the first since September 1969 -- that Pirates starting pitchers recorded three straight double-digit strikeout games. More >

Mets: The Mets should be thrilled to head back home for a Memorial Day matinee against the Phillies, with Bartolo Colon starting their 1:10 p.m. ET game opposite Severino Gonzalez. They are 17-6 at Citi Field this season compared to 7-15 on the road, and sport a 5-1 record against the Phillies. The Mets are 17-9 vs. National League East foes, 7-12 against everyone else.

Pirates: After three Minor League rehab starts, right-hander Charlie Morton will join the Pirates' rotation and make his 2015 debut Monday night against the Marlins at PNC Park. Morton will line up opposite Marlins right-hander David Phelps to kick off a three-game series, with first pitch slated for 7:05 ET.

Watch every out-of-market regular season game live on MLB.TV.

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. Anthony DiComo is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.
Read More: Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, Francisco Liriano, Jon Niese