The Bucs tried to blow a golden opp against Shelby Miller, but came through in the end. JT poked a single to right and Neil Walker lined one over short; Tabata drew a throw to third and Walker steamed into second, curiously being credited with a double. Cutch K'ed as Miller stayed hard, up and away on him. With the lefty Pedro up and a base open, Miller pumped one inside and hit him on the first pitch to load the sacks. Marlon Byrd K'ed; he was worked at the top edge of the strike zone. Miller worked Garrett Jones upstairs, too. He fell behind 2-1 and tried to sneak a heater past him, down and in. Jones yanked it into right for a two-run double, and the Bucs had a quick 2-0 lead for Frankie.
Liriano had a much more efficient second frame, although he issued another two-out walk, this one to Shane Robinson. At least it only took four pitches. With an out, Liriano drew a four pitch walk. The trainer came out to check on Miller; he stayed in, but his fastball was down a couple of ticks, from 96-98 in the first to 93-94 in the this frame (which is actually his average). With two down, Walker banged a rocket up the middle; it caught Miller in the lower leg area, and slowed up enough to become a 4-6 force.
The first two Cards went down in the third before Carlos Beltran singled on a 2-1 pitch after plate ump Ted Barrett squeezed the plate on Frankie, but he stranded another two-out base runner. Cutch's bid for career homer #100 died on the LF track by the 383' mark, and a pair of grounders finished the inning.
The Cards went down 1-2-3 in the fourth on seven pitches; JT made a nice diving grab of Molina's flare and Byrd ran down David Freese's shot to RC. The Bucs added on when Jones and Russ Martin went long back-to-back, Jones inside the RF pole and Martin to straight center over the 399' mark. With an out, Liriano drew another walk and JT doubled to right, but the Bucs couldn't deliver a telling blow. Walker popped out on the first pitch, and Cutch scorched one to right that hung up long enough for Beltran to make the grab.
In the fifth, the Cards went down in order and the Jones show continued. With an out, Byrd doubled and Jones drove him home to make it 5-0. A walk and an error loaded the bases with Sam Freeman now on the hill, but Francisco rolled into a DP. It's 5-0 and the Bucs have left a lot of ducks quacking.
Each side managed a knock in the sixth without any damage. The seventh had a couple of hard hit balls, but was a clean frame for both Liriano and Fernando Salas. Felix Pie went to left and Gaby to first in the eighth, and the Cisco Kid kept mowing down Cardinals, getting three ground outs. That ended his night, giving up just two hits and two walks with six whiffs after 95 pitches. The Bucs went down quietly.
Mark the Shark came on, more as a matter of getting in some work rather than leveraging a victory. After an out, Matt Holliday poked a knock into right and Allen Craig lined a single to center that hooked away from Cutch, who originally looked like he had it measured. But no sweat. Molina shot one to first, and a Gaby-to-Barmes-to-Melancon twin killing ended the game neatly.
Nice way to start the series, and tomorrow the two teams go into battle tied for first; the Pirates were nine games back at this time last year. AJ Burnett takes on Lance Lynn tomorrow night, and Pittsburgh fans can sit back and enjoy an actual pennant race.
- Francisco Liriano became the first Pittsburgh southpaw to win at least 15 games in a season since John Smiley (20-8) and Zane Smith (16-10) in 1991. It's also the lefty's personal high; his 14 wins prior to tonight matched his 2010 total.
- Garrett Jones made use of those three days off. He hit his 100th MLB homer (98 as a Bucco) and went 3-for-4, a triple away from the cycle, with four RBI.
- There were 38,036 at PNC Park tonight. It's the 16th sellout of the year; 19 is the mark to beat.
- This was the 10th time St. Louis has been shut out this season; the Pirates have served up four of the whitewashes. The Bucs have tossed 15 scoreless games in 2013, the most since recording 20 in 1992.
- We're thinking it may be a while before Starling Marte returns; he's still taking BP one-handed.
- Casey Sadler replaced Kris Johnson on the bump at Indy tonight. The tea leaves are all pointing toward Johnson to make the Sunday start against the Cards.
- Utilityman Russ Canzler cleared waivers and was outrighted to Indianapolis after being DFA'ed earlier in the week after the Byrd/Buck deal. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors follows Russ' quite hectic 2013 campaign.
- First rounders OF Austin Meadows and C Reese McGuire have been promoted from the GCL to short-season Jamestown for the Jammers' stretch run.
- Keep your eye on the Gulf Tower: it will light up for Bucco homers, runs and wins.
- Pirates Charities donated $210,000 to fund Miracle League programs during the pregame ceremonies tonight.