Cervelli, Bucs enjoying record shutout streak
Catcher behind the plate for 42 consecutive scoreless innings
PITTSBURGH -- On Monday, it was Francisco Liriano and Rob Scahill. Sunday, it was A.J. Burnett, Jared Hughes and Antonio Bastardo.
On Friday, it was Jeff Locke and six-sevenths of the Pirates' bullpen. On Wednesday, it was Charlie Morton, Tony Watson and Mark Melancon.
The pitchers may have changed as the Pirates threw four shutouts over their last five games, all of them victories. But the man behind the plate for each of them? It was Francisco Cervelli.
Cervelli worked eight brilliant innings with Liriano and a scoreless ninth with Scahill as the Pirates rolled to an 11-0 win on Monday at PNC Park.
The shutout gave Cervelli a streak of 42 consecutive scoreless innings behind the dish, believed to be the longest such streak in Pirates history, at least since records are available.
"The catcher's always going to play his part. As he continues to grow and learn these guys in different situations, every game presents new opportunities and different challenges from time to time," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "The growth, the learning curve continues to grow and develop with all of them. Where to go, how to go. He's definitely helped."
Cervelli entered Monday's game with a 33-innings scoreless streak behind the plate, the longest in club history since Manny Sanguillen caught 38 straight scoreless innings from May 17-23, 1972.
Then he added eight more with Liriano, guiding him through eight easy innings on 100 pitches.
"Strike one. Strike one. Strike one. That was the key," Cervelli said afterward. "When he's on top of the hitters, it's going to be hard to hit it."
Acquired this offseason in a trade with the Yankees, Cervelli has proven to be everything the Bucs hoped for defensively, and even more with a bat in his hands.
Cervelli continued to produce at the plate on Monday, going 2-for-4 with a triple while batting fifth for the first time this season. The triple, only his second since 2010, was the biggest blow in the Bucs' five-run first inning as they romped past lefty Carlos Rodon and the White Sox pitching staff.
But his more important responsibilities come on defense. And he's lived up to the Pirates' expectations there as well.
He's been an elite pitch-framer. He's tirelessly blocked balls in the dirt. He's called a number of dominant pitching performances, including Monday's 12-strikeout effort by Liriano.
"We're pretty much on the same page. We talk between innings and before the game," Liriano said. "He has a pretty good idea behind the plate what he's doing, and he's blocking a lot of pitches in the dirt."