Liriano struggles as Bucs limp into break
CINCINNATI – Francisco Liriano was in trouble often, but it was just one bad pitch that really cost the Pittsburgh left-hander.
Liriano gave up Kris Negron’s first career home run, and All-Star Todd Frazier later added a two-run shot as the Cincinnati Reds rolled into the All-Star break with a 6-3 win over the Pirates on Sunday.
“I’ll learn from my mistakes and try to get better,” Liriano said.
Liriano made his first start since June 10 against the Chicago Cubs, when he strained his left oblique strain. He tied his season high by issuing six walks for the second time in three starts, and left the bases loaded in two of his four innings.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle wasn’t sure if Liriano would be rusty after being reinstated from the disabled list before the game.
“You’ve got to get him into a big league game to find out,” Hurdle said. “He threw one bad strike – one badly located strike. He’s got to be able to maintain his delivery. He has the ability to maintain his composure and his delivery.”
Hoping to get Liriano back on track as quickly as possible, Hurdle announced before the game that he would start the first game after the break on Friday against Colorado.
“I can’t wait for Friday,” Liriano said.
Liriano (1-7) allowed three hits and three runs with four strikeouts and a wild pitch.
Frazier lined a drive just inside the right-field foul pole on the first pitch from Vance Worley in the sixth to help the Pirates finish 2-5 on their road trip.
“We took another look at Frazier’s home run,” Hurdle said. “That was a good piece of hitting.”
The Reds went 8-3 on their 11-game homestand against Milwaukee, the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh to finish the first half 10-0-1 in series against those Central Division opponents. They are 0-3 in series against St. Louis.
Johnny Cueto, another Reds All-Star, overcame Neil Walker’s home run and a 56-minute rain delay in the fifth to last six innings. Cueto (10-6) allowed five hits and three runs with two walks and seven strikeouts. He also hit a batter.
Jubo Diaz pitched the seventh, and Jonathan Broxton worked the eighth before Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in the ninth for his 21st save.
Chapman’s fanning of leadoff batter Pedro Alvarez extended his record strikeout streak to 41 straight appearances.
Two of Pittsburgh’s All-Stars got the Pirates on the board. Andrew McCutchen tripled and scored the Pirates’ first run on Walker’s groundout in the fourth.
All-Star backup Josh Harrison made it a one-run game with an RBI single in the fifth.
Devin Mesoraco drove in Jay Bruce from first base with a double off the left-center field wall in the fifth.
Walker snapped a 0-for-12 slump with his 13th homer leading off the sixth. Russell Martin followed by reaching second base on an error by shortstop Zack Cozart, but the Pittsburgh catcher was thrown out trying to steal third.
“That’s on me,” Hurdle said. “I should’ve given him the no-run sign.”
Another Cozart error in the inning helped Pittsburgh get runners to first and second with two outs, but pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez flied out to end the threat.
“They got two big swings,” Hurdle said. “We got something going after the rain delay. We were one pitch away from popping it. We weren’t able to get that big swing.”
Game notes: The Pirates optioned INF Matt Hague to Triple-A Indianapolis to make room for Liriano. … According to Elias Sports Bureau, as reported by the Pirates, McCutchen on Saturday became the first player in franchise history to hit tying and go-ahead home runs in the ninth inning or later of the same game.