SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — His left oblique no longer a painful obstacle, Francisco Liriano is starting to look like the dominant pitcher he was for Pittsburgh in 2013.
With the Pirates in the thick of the race in the NL Central, the timing couldn't be better.
Liriano struck out a season-high 11 in seven innings to win consecutive starts for the first time this season and Pittsburgh beat the San Francisco Giants 3-1 on Tuesday night.
"I was just trying to hit my spots, make some good pitches," said Liriano, who last won consecutive starts nearly a year ago. "My last start and tonight, everything's getting better pitching-wise and I'm getting ahead with the fastball."
Josh Harrison hit a leadoff home run in the first inning and Travis Snider added a two-run shot in the second for the Pirates, who moved within one game of first-place Milwaukee in the NL Central.
A former minor league prospect for the Giants, Liriano (3-7) gave up a home run to Mike Morse but was otherwise stellar while leading the surging Pirates to their eighth win in 11 games. The left-hander allowed four hits, walked one and retired 18 of the final 21 hitters he faced.
More importantly, Liriano threw first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 26 hitters he faced. He's 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA over the last three starts.
"I thought it was his best outing," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "The fastball played so well, he was able to get them into a swing mode. This is a guy who was a huge part of the success we had last year. That's why I felt it was important to get him up and running again."
San Francisco lost its sixth straight, matching its longest skid of the season.
Harrison hit a 3-2 pitch from Giants starter Tim Hudson off the facing off the brick wall in right field for his first career leadoff home run. Harrison is hitting .583 (7 for 12) with a double and three home runs over his past three games.
Continue reading this story on the...