CHICAGO (AP) — Francisco Liriano and the Pittsburgh Pirates trailed by two after the left-hander’s second pitch.
It was that kind of day.
Liriano dropped his fourth straight start and Pittsburgh got shut out for the first time this season, losing 6-0 to Jake Arrieta and the Chicago Cubs on Friday.
The Pirates lost for the eighth time in nine games with their starter struggling with his control and their offense producing just three hits.
“I didn’t have a rhythm and I’m missing with the fastball, missing with the slider, everything,” Liriano said.
Liriano (4-7) allowed four runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out six and matched a season high by walking five batters for the fourth time this year.
He also hit Anthony Rizzo twice with fastballs, and he fell behind 2-0 two pitches into his start when Matt Szczur connected after Dexter Fowler singled.
“First couple pitches, you want to throw strikes,” Liriano said. “They got me.”
Arrieta pitched two-hit ball over six innings, and Albert Almora Jr. had three hits for Chicago.
Arrieta (11-1) struck out 11 and walked three as the Cubs started the weekend series on a strong note after dropping two of three at Washington.
He walked the bases loaded in the sixth before striking out David Freese and Matt Joyce to escape that jam. The Cubs then scored three in the bottom half to break open a 2-0 game.
“If I’m down in the strike zone, good things will happen,” Arrieta said. “Got a little out of whack in the sixth but got back to just throwing in the zone down.”
The Pirates fell below .500 at 33-34 for the first time since a 7-8 start. They had not been shut out in a regular-season game since they lost to St. Louis on Sept. 28.
“We weren’t able to convert the opportunities, and when you’re facing an elite pitcher and you don’t get him and you don’t convert it usually doesn’t end up well,” manager Clint Hurdle said.
Arrieta, who blanked Pittsburgh in the National League wild-card game last fall, won his second straight start since his string of 20 consecutive regular-season winning decisions ended.
The only hits he allowed were back-to-back singles by Jordy Mercer and Chris Stewart in the third. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner struck out the next three batters and wasn’t threatened again until he walked three in a row with one out in the sixth.
Arrieta got out of that bases-loaded jam by striking out Freese after falling behind 3-0 in the count and catching Joyce looking at a 3-2 pitch on the inside part of the plate.
Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli said he was “embarrassed” getting injured shortly after a agreeing to a new contract.
Speaking to reporters for the first time since he broke a bone in his left hand while swinging in a game on June 10, Cervelli said expects to get the soft cast removed Monday. He is out at least three more weeks. The injury came less than a month after he agreed to a three-year, $31 million deal through the 2019 season.
“It’s a little bit of a nightmare,” Cervelli said. “I feel a little embarrassed because of the confidence they showed me with the contract and everything.”
Pirates: LF Starling Marte was out of the lineup for a second straight day because of bruising and swelling under his left eye. Marte has no vision problems. . C Chris Stewart started after missing two games with general soreness.
Cubs: 3B Kris Bryant was out of the lineup because of an illness. … Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations, said Kyle Schwarber remains on schedule in his rehab from season-ending surgery in his left knee, and he reiterated the slugger will not play again this season. Schwarber was recently fitted with a new, less cumbersome brace. Epstein also said Schwarber sat in on the draft room while the team was away, helping the scouts and adding some levity.
Cubs LHP Jon Lester (8-3, 1.89 ERA) looks to win his fifth straight start Saturday night while the Pirates send LHP Jonathon Niese (6-3, 4.60 ERA) to the mound. Lester has not allowed an earned run in his past two outings.