Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Francisco Liriano throws to the plate during the first inning of their baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Saturday, June 22, 2013, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
by Joe Resnick
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The Pittsburgh Pirates have been making a lot of noise this season and are tempting their long-suffering fans again with the possibility of a winning season for the first time since rookie Gerrit Cole was still in diapers.
Francisco Liriano took a shutout into the seventh inning, and Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez and Gaby Sanchez homered, leading the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 6-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday night.
“It was awesome just to be able to do that, and we had a lot of fun doing it,” said McCutchen, who ended a homerless drought of 98 at-bats. “This is the way we should come out and play every day. We don’t have to depend on just one or two guys. Everybody’s coming through. To have a complete lineup like that from top to bottom is always fun.”
Liriano (6-3) allowed a run and seven hits in 6 2-3 innings, struck out six and walked three. The Angels’ run came in the seventh, when rookie J.B. Shuck hit a ground-rule double just inside the right field line and Mike Trout drove him in with a two-out single on the left-hander’s 104th and final pitch.
Liriano has allowed fewer than three runs in seven of his nine starts after missing the first 35 games of the season because of broken bone in his non-throwing arm.
The victory put the Bucs a season-best 15 games over .500 (45-30). After 75 games last season they were 40-35, but finished with a losing record for an unprecedented 20th straight year.
Jerome Williams (5-3) gave up five runs — four earned — and eight hits over six innings in his eighth start of the season and first since June 12. The right-hander took over the rotation slot vacated by lefty Jason Vargas, who was placed on the disabled list Friday because of a blood clot under his pitching arm.
“He made really good pitches in the first inning, and he really made some really good pitches throughout the game,” catcher Chris Iannetta said. “But in that three-run inning he gave up the home run to Alvarez, and that was just a good piece of hitting. All of his mistakes were up in the zone and they capitalized on them.”
Alvarez has homered in three consecutive games.
The Bucs added two more that inning on an RBI single by No. 9 hitter Jordy Mercer and a bases-loaded walk to Russell Martin.
One of the runs was unearned, the result of a fielding error by third baseman Alberto Callaspo on a slow-hit grounder by Marte that kept the inning alive.
“Actually, if Williams threw the whole game the way he did in the first inning, it would have been complicated for us,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “He’s pitched extremely well for them, and this was probably not normal for what they’ve seen from him this season. There were mistakes he made tonight and we were able to do something with those mistakes. A lot of balls were elevated.”
Travis Snider extended the margin to 4-0 in the fourth with an RBI single after a leadoff double by Neil Walker. McCutchen added his eighth homer in the fifth, and Sanchez capped the scoring in the eighth against Michael Kohn with a homer off the left field pole, his sixth this season and second in his last 44 games.
After striking out four of his first five batters, Liriano found himself in a jam with runners at the corners in the third inning before retiring Albert Pujols on a grounder to second base. The three-time NL MVP is 1 for 15 against Liriano.
“His fastball was 92, 95, and had good movement,” Iannetta said. “He had a really tight slider tonight and a very good changeup. That was his equalizing pitch, and we swung through it a lot.”
Howie Kendrick, hitting at a .381 clip over his previous 35 games, legged out a double to right-center with one out in the Angels’ fourth and was thrown out at the plate as left fielder Starling Marte charged Erick Aybar’s sharp single and made a one-hop peg to Martin.
“I knew he was out right when they sent him home, because I know he has a cannon,” McCutchen said. “When that ball was coming to him and I saw (third base coach Dino Ebel) waving, I was like, ‘He’s out.’ He’s not a typical left fielder because he has the arm of a right fielder. So when he threw that ball, I knew he was toast.”
NOTES: Shuck started in RF in place of Josh Hamilton, who missed his second straight game with a sore right wrist. Hamilton is batting just .207. … Hurdle, whose only season as the Texas Rangers’ hitting coach coincided with Hamilton’s 2010 AL MVP campaign, had a chance to reconnect with Angels’ slumping right fielder during this series. “It was an extremely good visit,” Hurdle said. “I think there’s a lot of challenges, and he’s in a challenging place. I reminded him of the strengths and the skills he does have, and also that he can’t do it alone. There’s some other pretty talented people in that clubhouse and on that ballfield.” … Hurdle played in 18 games at Angel Stadium with the Kansas City Royals when it was still known as Anaheim Stadium, and was 10 for 46 lifetime. … Liriano is 2-4 with a 5.82 ERA in eight career starts against the Angels.