Francisco Liriano started the skid by giving up 10 rounds in only two innings, last Friday night in a 10-1 loss in Colorado, and he ended it, Wednesday night, by pitching his best (and maybe more important) game of the season. Only needing 94 pitches, Liriano pitched a complete game, as the Pirates ended their four-game losing streak with a 5-1 victory in St. Louis.
Pedro Alvarez (29) and Garrett Jones (11) got things going for Pittsburgh in the first inning by smacking solo home runs, and Starling Marte plated two in the fourth inning with a double to give Liriano all the cushion he would need.
The victory was much-needed for the Pirates, one night after losing in 14 innings. Leading 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning, left fielder Marte dropped an easy pop fly, resulting in a two-base error and eventual game-tying hit with two away.
After two straight end-of-season meltdowns, a loss like the one to the Cardinals could have been hard to come back from. However, maybe this Pittsburgh team really is different.
We shall see.
It is worth noting that the Pirates participated in memorable marathon clashes in each of the previous two seasons. In 2011, Pittsburgh lost a 19-inning affair to the Braves after Jerry Meals blew a call at home plate. From there, the Pirates would go on to lose 43 of 62 down the stretch to finish completely out of the race at 72-90.
Last August, Pittsburgh got the better end of a 19-inning affair, this time against the Cardinals, but it still wasn't enough to spur the team to victory, as the Pirates would suffer a second-straight collapse and a 20th straight losing season.
So, maybe they're right when they say there's no such thing as momentum in baseball.
All I know is the Pirates are 71-48 and gave me a nice sigh of relief.