PITTSBURGH (AP) — Clint Hurdle isn't sure the Pittsburgh Pirates need an ace to make it to the postseason for the second straight year.
Of course, he's not going to complain if his enigmatic and injury-plagued staff finally develops one. Particularly if it's Francisco Liriano.
Showing flashes of the form that helped him win 16 games during a resurgent 2013, Liriano handcuffed the Los Angeles Dodgers for seven innings in a 6-1 victory on Wednesday night.
Liriano (2-7) overcame his typical early game jitters to allow one run on four hits and pick his first regular-season win at PNC Park in 11 months. Making his third start since returning from a strained left oblique, Liriano struck out four against two walks and was never in danger of giving away an early 5-0 lead.
"I'm not at the point I want to be yet but everything is getting better and everything is moving forward," he said.
For Liriano and the Pirates both.
Josh Harrison had two hits with two RBIs, including a two-run double down the left field line capped a four-run outburst in the first against Dan Haren (8-8). Pittsburgh has won five of six since the All-Star break to move a season-high seven games over .500 (54-47).
"When we get on base, we know we can make things happen," Harrison said.
Travis Snider added two hits, including his fifth homer, for the Pirates. Pittsburgh batted around in the first against Haren, who has lost four consecutive starts.
"The first pitch of a game was a strike and then they swing at the next three pitches and I stepped back after that and said to myself that I needed to make better pitches," Haren said. "But then I nibbled around guys and couldn't throw a strike. I just couldn't do anything right."
The right-hander settled down to get through five innings but the Dodgers could do little against Liriano. Los Angeles didn't collect a hit until Miguel Rojas doubled with one out in the fifth and never threatened as Liriano put together his best start of the year.
It didn't quite start out that way.
The left-hander has struggled with his command all season and it looked like more of the same in the first after consecutive one-out walks to Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez. Liriano escaped after striking out Scott Van Slyke and getting Juan Uribe to fly out to right.