The Bucs left the bases loaded in the second, although that scenario was set up to get to Liriano, and didn't show much pizzazz until the sixth. They scored when Jordy Mercer doubled and came home with two outs on Russell Martin's two bagger; the inning was kept alive when the batter ahead of Martin, Gaby Sanchez, walked on a 3-2 pitch that looked a lot like strike three.
Mercer doubled again in the eighth, but was stranded. Mark Melacon came in on cue. He got the first two outs handily before Alfonso Siriano poked a curve down and away into center for a knock. It took MM nine more pitches, but he froze Scott Hairston on a cutter on the inside half after working him away to end the frame.
Martin walked on five pitches to open the ninth. Carlos Villanueva fell behind Pedro 3-1, came in with a heater, and it was roped into right to put Buccos on the corners. Neil Walker K'ed at a slider in the dirt in an at-bat where he only saw one pitch over the plate. Travis Snider smacked an apparent DP ball to third, but the Cubs could only get a force out at second when Darwin Barney was slow covering the bag as Pittsburgh added an insurance run. Garrett Jones singled and Starling Marte got plunked to load the bases, but today's hero, Mercer, banged a ball to third to end the frame.
Jason Grilli took the bump for the ninth. After a pair of whiffs, Ryan Sweeney kept the Cubs alive with a single to left. Dioner Navarro followed with a knock to right. Darwin Barney didn't go quietly into the dusk, but he did eventually go down on strikes after fouling off four consecutive pitches.
The bad news is the Back End Boys both tossed over 20 pitches; the good news is that they carried Liriano's shutout through to the end and Grilli earned his 23rd save of the Cisco Kid's fourth win. It was the kind of game you'd expect with the wind blowing in at Wrigley. Hopefully, the Buc bats will start generating a little more than a breeze; they were 1-for-9 with RISP.
AJ Burnett and Jeff Samardzija mix it up tomorrow afternoon.
- The big buzz is that Neal Huntington said that the Bucs would use "internal options" to replace Wandy Rodriguez on Tuesday against the Giants, and hinted broadly that the option may be Gerrit Cole. Cole has been helped by being slotted in roughly the same spot as Wandy - he'll be working with an extra day's rest if he goes Tuesday - and neither Craig Morton and James McDonald have given any sign that they're ready to hit the hill. Add a couple of strong back-to-back outings by Cole, and the stars may just be aligned right...
- The Pirates tossed their tenth shutout of the season to equal their 2012 total.
- Russell Martin caught another would-be larcenist on the basepaths today; he's 14-of-32 (44%) so far this campaign.
- Jordy Mercer had a pair of doubles and Martin added a pair of knocks to bang out four of the Bucs' seven hits.
- The Blue Jays recalled Andy LaRoche.