"I think we did a pretty good job of consistently pressing them and attacking them," Alvarez said.
A little help is all baseball's top pitching staff needs these days. Pittsburgh's 13th shutout lowered its team ERA to 3.09, easily the best in baseball. Liriano's performance marked the 24th time in 25 games a starter has allowed three earned runs or fewer.
"I'm just trying to learn how to go out there every fifth day and make pitches," Liriano said.
He made enough to cool off the surging A's. Oakland had won 10 of 13 to vault over Texas and into the lead in the AL West but Milone struggled with his command.
The left-hander was coming off a season-high 8 1-3 innings of work in a win over Kansas City last week. He didn't make it out of the third inning as Pittsburgh's offense showed signs of life.
Marte doubled leading off the third, and Tabata followed with an RBI double. McCutchen drove Tabata home with a single, and Alvarez followed two batters later with a single to center that scored McCutchen.
That was enough for Milone, who needed 80 pitches to get through 2 2-3 innings.
"They were doing a good job of putting the ball in play and falling," Milone said. "And even though they weren't hit very hard, you always give yourself a chance when you put the ball in play and that's what they were doing."
He was replaced by Pat Neshek, who made his first appearance since June 29. The rust showed. Pittsburgh tacked on two more runs in the fourth to give Liriano all the cushion he would need to cap a remarkable first half for one of baseball's best comeback stories.
"I like the way I've been pitching and the way we've all been playing," Liriano said. "Right now, we're in good position to make the playoffs and we want to continue playing like that in the second half and hopefully make the postseason."