Nine days between starts was too much for Francisco Liriano.
The left-hander lacked his usual control, resulting in his shortest outing of the season. Brandon Phillips drove in three runs with a bases-loaded double, and the Cincinnati Reds tightened the NL Central race by beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 on Friday night.
The third-place Reds moved to within three games of second-place Pittsburgh. The Pirates lead their season series 6-5.
The Reds sent nine batters to the plate for four runs in the fifth off Liriano (9-4), who had his shortest outing of the season. Chris Heisey’s infield single drove in the first run, and Phillips’ double off Justin Wilson made it 5-0.
“One of those days I didn’t get any rhythm,” Liriano said. “I tried to make good pitches and it didn’t work out. Everything was up. I was rushing a little bit.
“I didn’t get anything going. Just one of those days.”
Heisey also had a solo homer off Liriano, who is 0-3 in three starts against Mike Leake and the Reds this season. In the last two games, he got little support from his offense. This time, his control deserted him. Liriano needed 98 pitches to go 41⁄3 innings.
“Nine days off the mound,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He was trying to get back into a rhythm. He threw more pitches than he wanted to. We were a pitch or two away from getting out of situations. We’ve gotten out of those situations before. We couldn’t tonight.”
Leake (9-4) gave up solo homers to Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Russell Martin in the sixth inning. Manny Parra fanned Pedro Alvarez with runners on second and third to end the seventh.
Aroldis Chapman struck out two in the ninth while getting his 22nd save in 25 chances.
Leake has won his past three decisions against Pittsburgh, giving the Pirates a tough time all-around. The three homers represented a breakthrough.
“Too bad we weren’t able to jump on him earlier than we did,” McCutchen said.
The Ohio River rivals have produced the majors’ most painful pairings this season. Nineteen batters have been hit by pitches – the Reds 10 times, the Pirates nine times – in their 11 games. Nobody was hit on Friday, a rare game that didn’t leave a mark.
The Pirates emerged from the All-Star break with their best record in 37 years. Their 56 wins were their most at the break since the World Series champion Pirates of 1971 had 57 wins.
Pittsburgh’s overriding question: Can it avoid another second-half meltdown and break a two-decade streak of losing?
The Reds are trying to duplicate what they did last season, when they went on a surge after the break and ran away to the NL Central title. First, they need to get healthy. Top starter Johnny Cueto, set-up men Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton, and cleanup hitter Ryan Ludwick are still on the disabled list.
Heisey took over in left field when Ludwick got hurt, then pulled his right hamstring and missed nearly two months. His solo shot on Friday gave him three homers since his return.
Shin-Soo Choo singled during Cincinnati’s four-run fifth, extending his hitting streak to 13 games, matching his career high.
Phillips’ decisive double came a few hours after a magazine released an interview with the All-Star second baseman in which he said he’s still “scarred” by the Reds’ decision to give Joey Votto a 10-year, $225 million extension in 2012 while he was in tough negotiations for an extension of his own. Votto said he understood Phillips’ opinion and appreciated his honesty.
Notes: Pirates 2B Neil Walker started a rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis on Friday. He’ll play three games and get evaluated. He’s been on the 15-day DL since June 7 with soreness in his right side. ... 1B Garrett Jones’ error ended Pittsburgh streak of 41 innings without one, matching their season high. ... The Reds called up INF Neftali Soto from Triple-A Louisville, filling the spot opened when LH Tony Cingrani was sent down on Wednesday. ... Manager Dusty Baker said LH reliever Sean Marshall suffered a “minor setback” in his throwing program. Marshall has been on the DL since April 10 with a sore pitching shoulder.
Nine days between starts was too much for Francisco Liriano.
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Four local wrestlers have chance for PIAA gold
Four local wrestlers will compete tonight for a spot in the state finals at the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships.
Moving on up | Nine grapplers advance to AA quarterfinals
Bedford’s Garrett Thomas said he wasn’t nervous at all.
United’s Tyler Oliver admitted that he was, even if he told his coaches that he wasn’t.
And Richland’s Nico Pecora said the pressure is on his family members, not him.
Nervous or not, those three, who were making their state tournament debuts, and six other local wrestlers won their first match at the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships on Thursday morning to qualify for today’s quarterfinal round.
Day 1 gives ups and downs for region
There was plenty of talk about roller coasters on Thursday afternoon at the Giant Center, but it had nothing to do with the thrill rides across the parking lot at Hersheypark.
It was all about the ups and downs of the PIAA Class AA Wrestling Championships.
Berlin boys wary of Trojans’ size, athleticism
On the same night last week that Berlin Brothersvalley was winning its first District 5-A title since 2007, Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic was losing to eventual champion Lincoln Park in the WPIAL quarterfinals.
The Mountaineers (23-2), one of three area boys district champions set to begin opening-round action in the PIAA playoffs tonight, and Trojans (15-10) will square off this evening at 7:30 p.m. at the Pitt-Johnstown Sports Center, site of Berlin’s 65-51 district championship win over Forbes Road.
Tomahawks return home to face Jets
Johnstown Tomahawks coach Jason Spence knows numbers can be deceiving.
For instance, the Tomahawks’ Matt Meier had two goals and three points on Saturday night. Goaltender Brett Young made 41 saves.
Those statistics are impressive for 60 minutes of work. Both players had solid efforts, especially during a road game. On paper, the numbers looked good enough for a victory.
Danel helping Falcons to Division III tournament
When Chelsea Danel was a senior at North Star, the Cougars were able to win a District 5-AA basketball title.
Now Danel, a senior at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, is a key contributor on a Falcons’ hoops squad which upset top-seeded Lebanon Valley 53-47 in the Commonwealth Conference championship on Saturday. It was the ninth title for the Falcons in 13 appearances.
Pirates, Jays rained out
The Toronto Blue Jays' spring training game at the Pittsburgh Pirates was rained out Thursday.
The game will not be made up.
Ferndale grad aiding Duquesne women’s hoops
Matt Schmidt was hired as an assistant coach for the Duquesne women’s basketball team in June.
Now the former Ferndale High School standout will have his first opportunity to experience March madness with the Dukes, who are the sixth-seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament which opened Thursday in Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, Va.
Icecats on way to national tournament
The Pitt-Johnstown hockey team needed to overcome some long odds to advance to the ACHA Men’s Division III national championship tournament in Coral Springs, Fla. next week.
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