By Nate Barnes
Francisco Liriano no-hit the Chicago Cubs for six innings, until Welington Castillo hit a game-tying two-run home run in the seventh.
“You knew it was going to be tough and like I said, that’s how you score -- you get somebody on and pop a home run,” manager Dale Sveum said. “Obviously we didn’t have any hits or hit anything hard up to that point, you knew runs were going to be tough to go by on both ends.”
The tie didn’t last long, though, as Justin Morneau pinch-hit in the bottom of the eighth and drove Andrew McCutchen home from second as the go-ahead run that gave Pittsburgh a 3-2 lead.
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After walking four times against Liriano, the Cubs strung together three straight hits to start the seventh and push Liriano out of the game after 107 pitches. From there, the Cubs had no other hits against relievers Bryan Morris, Kyle Farnsworth and Mark Melancon.
Pittsburgh scored in the first inning when Jose Tabata tripled to lead off the game, and Cubs starter Travis Wood threw a wild pitch, scoring Tabata and giving the Pirates a 1-0 lead.
Wood was able to prevent more damage in the inning, as he worked around men on second and third with one out to hold the Pirates to a single run in the frame.
“Woody got out of a big jam in the first inning, settled down, and pitched very well,” Sveum said.
The scoring was at a standstill until the fourth, when catcher Tony Sanchez hit a solo home run leading off the inning. The Pirates led 2-0 with Liriano cruising until the seventh.
Wood’s pitch to Sanchez was just about the only mistake for the lefty after the first inning.
“He threw pitches to the arm side and both sides of the plate, pitches very well and pitches to the game plan. He went a little bit slow, got a couple balls up early and settled down,” Sveum said. “One mistake to Sanchez, other than that, he pitched really well.”
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Wood finished after the sixth, and allowed two runs on five hits, walked two and struck out four Pirate hitters to qualify for another quality start. Wood’s quality start was the 84th for Cubs starters this season, and ties Chicago for fifth with New York among all National League teams.
Against a lineup with a number of proficient hitters against left-handed pitching, Wood said his game plan was “attack.”
“I’m always a guy who attacks and tries to get the ball in play as quick as possible,” Wood said. “They found the holes and that worked out for them, fortunately enough for me I was able to counter that and get some quick outs and pitch out of that jam.”
Junior Lake broke up Liriano’s no-hitter with a lead-off single in the seventh, and scored on Castillo’s home run to deep left-center field.
Pedro Strop (2-2) took the loss as he allowed the Pirates’ run to cross in the eighth inning, while Farnsworth (1-0) earned his first win as a Pirate. Melancon worked the ninth for his 16th save this season.