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McCutchen goes deep to continue torrid spring hitting

Reigning MVP contributes early solo homer before Liriano leaves sharp outing

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Michael Almanzar's seventh-inning sacrifice fly proved to drive in the go-ahead run as the Orioles took down the Pirates, 4-2, in a Grapefruit League matchup on Thursday night.

Almanzar's deep fly to right off reliever Vin Mazzaro scored Jemile Weeks, who had been the lead man on a double steal with Ryan Flaherty.

Francisco Liriano, the Bucs' Opening Day starter, was sailing along on a four-hit shutout with two outs in the sixth when he landed awkwardly after delivering a 2-and-1 pitch to Adam Jones. Catcher Russell Martin immediately noticed and waved manager Clint Hurdle and assistant trainer Ben Potenziano out of the dugout.

After a few minutes of being surrounded by Hurdle, Potenziano and the entire infield, Liriano walked off the field and soon afterwards strolled down to the home clubhouse in the right-field corner, with no noticeable limp. He was said to have tightness in his left groin area, and his departure was termed precautionary.

The Orioles tied the game at 1 within minutes of Liriano's exit. Jones grounded to third off Minor League right-hander Kenn Kasparek and Pedro Alvarez's throw pulled first baseman Gaby Sanchez off the bag. Nelson Cruz immediately cashed in on the error with an RBI double up the left-center alley.

Bud Norris went the first five innings for the Orioles and held the Pirates to two hits, including a first-inning home run by Andrew McCutchen.

McCutchen, who hit .240 last spring prior to his National League MVP season, continued a torrid pace. McCutchen is batting .556 this spring -- his average actually declined from .560 because he went 1-for-2 -- and has 12 hits in his last 21 at-bats.

Liriano was aided by double plays that wiped out leadoff hits in each of the first two innings, and continued pitching out of trouble. In the fourth, Cruz doubled with one away and continued to third on a flubbed throw -- and Liriano responded with strikeouts of Steve Pearce and Delmon Young.

Up next: Preseason spotlights do not get much brighter than what will beam on Edinson Volquez as he starts against the Yankees at 7:05 p.m. ET. Volquez still has the team's commitment to be the No. 5 starter, but he needs to show that he merits the faith after compiling an ERA of 11.00 in his first four appearances. Eight strikeouts in nine innings tip off that he still has the stuff, but must control it more consistently. The game will be the Pirates' third consecutive night game, a Grapefruit League oddity.

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.
Read More: Pittsburgh Pirates, Francisco Liriano, Andrew McCutchen