Francisco Liriano strong again as Pirates play Boston to 2-2 tie


2. 14. 2. 4. Final

Liriano tosses four shutout frames against Boston Red Sox Saturday

Adding four shutout frames to his spring resume, Pittsburgh Pirates’ Opening Day starter Francisco Liriano did his part on Saturday, helping his club earn its third tied game of the spring, this one coming against the Boston Red Sox.

In his four innings of work, the veteran southpaw scattered just two hits, while walking three and striking out six. So far this spring in Grapefruit League action, Liriano has not allowed an earned run in nine innings on the hill – a promising sign for the Pirates.

However, it was the struggles of right-hander Stolmy Pimentel that caught the attention of most Saturday, as the reliever cost the Bucs a win with a rough ninth inning. Heading to the final frame with a 2-1 lead, the Pirates appeared poised to take home a win, but that plan quickly fell to pieces thanks to some timely Red Sox hitting.

With two outs and Quintin Berry on second base, Pimentel served up a game-tying single to right field to Blake Tekotte – before retiring Boston prospect Garin Cecchini via a fly out. So far this spring, Pimentel has allowed six earned runs in six innings of work – good for an unsightly 9.00 earned run average. In those six innings, opposing batters have racked up nine base knocks against the righty.

It was a slow start for both clubs offensively, with an Allen Craig line drive single in the fifth opening the scoring in Saturday’s contest – as both Liriano and his counterpart Wade Miley were both in midseason form, combining for nine scoreless innings of work.

Veteran slugger Corey Hart answered back for Pittsburgh in the bottom of the sixth, taking a 1-0 pitch and singling – scoring Starling Marte in the process. Hart advanced to second on a throwing error by Boston shortstop Devin Marrero, but he did not come around to score – keeping the score tied 1-1.

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Pittsburgh took the lead in the seventh via a run-scoring bunt by Gustavo Nunez that put the Bucs ahead 2-1. However, that lead was short-lived as the aforementioned Boston rally took away the win from the Pirates and cost Pimentel a blown save.

Marte was the only Pirates hitter to record multiple base hits in the game Saturday. As a team, Pittsburgh managed just five knocks against Red Sox pitching – striking out 11 times and drawing just two walks.

What Stood Out:

Another valuable outing by Liriano is the story to take away from Saturday’s tie. If the left-hander can keep up this high level of performance heading into the regular season, the Pirates’ starting rotation looks very formidable.

Flanked by hard-throwing right-hander Gerrit Cole, Liriano will look to live up to his three-year, $39 million contract he inked this offseason as the head of the Pirates’ rotation. In coming years, more pitching talent will reach Pittsburgh but, for now, it’s up to Liriano to lead this staff moving forward.

What’s Next:

Pittsburgh (9-7) will turn the ball over to right-hander Charlie Morton on Sunday in an early afternoon matchup against the reloaded Houston Astros (7-7) who will counter with veteran righty Roberto Hernandez.

First pitch is slated for 1:05 p.m. ET – and the game can be seen on ROOT Sports, as well as MLB Network.

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