Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano throws against the New York Mets during the first inning of a baseball game at Citi Field on Saturday, May 11, 2013 in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)
by Rick Freeman, AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Francisco Liriano struck out nine and pitched into the sixth inning to win his debut with Pittsburgh and help the Pirates beat the New York Mets 11-1 on Saturday.
Jordy Mercer homered twice and Jose Tabata had four hits, including a two-run shot the Pirates, who teed off on left-hander Jonathon Niese, finally chasing him during a big fifth inning.
The Mets have struggled to score at home, but Niese (2-4) would have put any team in a hole. He tied a career high by allowing eight runs, and walked more batters than he struck out for the fourth time in eight starts this season.
Liriano (1-0), returning from a broken non-throwing arm, allowed one run in 5 1-3 innings and 90 pitches. He gave up six hits and two walks.
The Pirates jumped on Niese early, and finally drove him out of the game in the fifth.
Mercer hit a solo shot after third baseman David Wright made a nifty barehanded play to throw out Starling Marte, and Tabata hit an RBI double off the base of the wall in center field.
Michael McKenry followed with a two-run single off reliever Scott Atchison and Clint Barmes followed with an RBI single before Liriano popped foul to end the inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, reliever Bryan Morris hit pinch-hitter Jordany Valdespin with his first pitch. The night before, Valdespin hit a long home run and took a long time admiring its trajectory. As Valdespin prepared to take his base Saturday, Pirates catcher McKenry appeared to turn and say something to him, but Valdespin just walked to first.
When he returned to the dugout after the inning, he threw his helmet in the corner and angrily stripped off his batting gloves while no one acknowledged him. Over on the Pittsburgh side, Morris received fist bumps from manager Clint Hurdle and plenty of his teammates.
Niese, who had never lost to the Pirates before, He gave up eight hits and three walks with a strikeout before leaving with one out in the fifth. He also allowed eight runs July 27 at Arizona last season.
Liriano agreed to a contract with Pittsburgh in the offseason, but broke his right arm on Dec. 25, the day before he was supposed to fly to Pittsburgh and sign a $12.75 million, two-year contract. Liriano, who said he was injured when he slapped a door in his house, signed a revised offer and prepared for a delayed start to the season.
After a late-spring injury to Jeff Karstens and the release of Jonathan Sanchez, the Pirates needed the help in their rotation.
And Liriano delivered. He set the first seven batters down in order, and the Mets didn’t get anyone to third base until the sixth inning, when Justin Turner singled with Wright on first and one out. Marlon Byrd hit a tough dribbler down the third base line that Brandon Inge charged, but he mishandled the transfer to his throwing hand on a play that was ruled a single.
The Mets put two runners on in the fourth inning after Byrd’s two-out single. But Liriano struck out Andrew Brown. He fanned Daniel Murphy to end the fifth after Tejada’s double.
Barmes hit an RBI single in the second inning and Tabata hit a two-run homer in the third, after McCutchen’s RBI single.
The game was delayed 47 minutes by rain in the middle of the ninth. When play resumed, Andrew Brown led off with a solo home run off left-hander Tony Watson.
NOTES: Saturday was Banner Day at Citi Field. Fans trooped Mets-themed banners around the warning track before the game, in the second year of revived tradition that had gone from 1963-1996 before it stopped. … The Pirates have homered in 12 of their last 13 games and 19 of 22. … New York has scored 31 runs in its last 12 home games. The 11 runs they allowed were a season-worst at home. … Pittsburgh right-hander Jeanmar Gomez (2-0) is expected to make his third start of the season in the finale of the four-game series on Sunday. He’ll face Mets rookie RHP Matt Harvey (4-0). … Tabata singled in the seventh for the third four-hit game of his career.