PITTSBURGH (AP) – Francisco Liriano took another step toward putting his season-long control issues behind him, striking out 13 to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 5-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday night.
Liriano (6-9) gave up three runs and four hits in 6 2/3 innings and didn’t issue a walk for just the second time in 19 starts. The left-hander entered the game having issued a major-league high 62 base on balls this season.
Mark Melancon worked the ninth for his 28th save.
Matt Joyce hit a three-run homer off Matt Garza (1-4) in the first inning and finished with four RBIs after being a last-second substitution in the outfield when Starling Marte was diagnosed with flu-like symptoms shortly before the first pitch.
Gregory Polanco finished with two hits for the Pirates. Andrew McCutchen went 2 for 3 to snap out of a 1-for-16 funk.
Jonathan Villar hit his seventh home run of the season for the Brewers. Hernan Perez added two hits for Milwaukee, which fell to 17-31 away from Miller Park, the second-worst road mark in the National League. Garza dropped his fourth straight decision, allowing five runs, four earned, in five innings with two walks and three strikeouts.
The veteran’s troubles started early when he walked Polanco and McCutchen with one out in the first. Enter Joyce, who sent a shot into the seats in right field for his ninth home run of the season to give Pittsburgh a 3-0 lead. He later added an RBI on a fielders’ choice in the third that put Pittsburgh up 4-1.
A crisp performance by Liriano made it stand up. Following three seasons with the Pirates in which he resurrected his career, 2016 has been a challenge for Liriano.
He went more than six weeks without a victory, a stretch that ended with a win in Oakland on July 3. He backed it up with better command in a loss to Washington last week, providing manager Clint Hurdle evidence Liriano was starting to figure it out.
It certainly looked like it through the first six innings. His slider working both sides of the plate, Liriano posted his highest strikeout total since whiffing 13 against San Diego on Aug. 19, 2013.
His only mistake through the first six innings came on Villar’s solo home run into the Milwaukee bullpen in the third. Liriano struck out the side in the sixth but was removed in the seventh following an RBI double by Perez and an RBI groundout by Scooter Gennett.
Tony Watson worked out of a two-on, no-out jam in the eighth and Melancon bounced back from consecutive blown saves to retire the Brewers in order.
Brewers: Pitching prospect Adrian Houser underwent Tommy John surgery on his right arm Thursday and will miss at least the next 12 months as he recovers. The 23-year-old, acquired as part of a deal with Houston that sent Mike Fires and Carlos Gomez to the Astros, appeared in two games last September for the Brewers and was 3-7 with a 5.25 ERA in 13 starts for Double-A Biloxi this season.
Pirates: Reliever Ryan Vogelsong voluntarily removed himself from a rehab start with Triple-A Indianapolis after four innings of work on Wednesday night due to neck tightness. Vogelsong, who turns 39 on Friday, is recovering from facial fractures suffered after getting hit by a pitch against Colorado on May 23. He is eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list on Saturday.
Brewers: Open a 10-game homestand on Friday with a three-game set against the Chicago Cubs. Jimmy Nelson (6-7, 3.39 ERA) is coming off his first win in over a month after tossing seven shutout innings against Cincinnati last Saturday.
Pirates: Host cross-state rival Philadelphia for a weekend series beginning Friday. Gerrit Cole (5-5, 3.11 ERA) will make his second start since returning from a stint on the disabled list with a right triceps strain. Cole allowed five runs in four innings in a loss to Washington last Saturday.