Liriano notches first win as Pirates pull away

Liriano notches first win as Pirates pull away

PHOENIX -- The Pirates concluded a pounding of the D-backs this weekend at Chase Field with Sunday's 8-0 victory, their first three-game sweep of a National League West club on the road since 2007 at San Francisco.

On Sunday, it was Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano who shut down the D-backs, losers of four out of five on this current eight-game homestand. He bested right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, who couldn't make it out of the fifth inning.

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Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Quiet Liriano earns first win, extends impressive run

Lefty holds D-backs scoreless in 6 1/3-inning stint

Quiet Liriano earns first win, extends impressive run

PHOENIX -- Quietly -- characteristic because the soft-spoken left-hander does everything quietly -- Francisco Liriano has become one of the National League's elite pitchers.

Liriano was at his best Sunday, contributing the first 6 1/3 innings to the series-sweeping 8-0 win over the Diamondbacks, but he has been at his "very good" for a long time. This was the 11th consecutive start in which he has given up no more than three runs, and since the first of those, on Aug. 25, he owns an ERA of 1.58 that is the lowest in the NL.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hughes makes quick work ending D-backs' rally

Reliever induces double play with two pitches

Hughes makes quick work ending D-backs' rally

PHOENIX -- Jared Hughes threw 16 pitches in the visitors' bullpen. Then he took six more warmup pitches after arriving atop the Chase Field mound.

By Hughes' own admission, he was overprepared for his day's work.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Altoona rotation trumps parent club with sterling start

Double-A affiliate starters are 7-0 with 0.65 ERA

Altoona rotation trumps parent club with sterling start

PHOENIX -- The Pirates' starting rotation has gotten off to a terrific start, with a collective 9-3 record and 2.64 ERA through Sunday.

You think that's good? Starting pitchers for the Altoona Curve, the Bucs' Double-A Eastern League affiliate, are 7-0 with an ERA of 0.65.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hurdle, Harrison pulling for Wainwright after injury

Bucs manager expects Cards starter to battle back

Hurdle, Harrison pulling for Wainwright after injury

PHOENIX -- When Clint Hurdle got in the car Sunday morning to begin the ride to Chase Field, he experienced a different kind of motion sickness. His phone vibrated with an incoming text message informing him of Adam Wainwright's Achilles injury.

"It's sad. I feel bad for Adam Wainwright," said Hurdle, who opened up about his admiration for the Cardinals right-hander now expected to miss the rest of the season. "He's as good a man as there is in the game, as good a pro as there is. I appreciate him for what he's done for the game, and for the way he's helped a lot of young men in a lot of different uniforms grow up and perform."

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Worley looks to extend win streak that he started

Worley looks to extend win streak that he started

The Pirates, one of the National League Central's reigning elite teams, and the Cubs, a growing force, begin their second series in a week Monday night at 7:05 p.m. CT in Wrigley Field. The first front of the pitched battle will involve right-handers Vance Worley of the Bucs and Jason Hammel of the Cubs in a rematch of their meeting on Wednesday.

Worley's 4-3 victory in that game started the Pirates on the winning streak that reached five Sunday in Arizona. The Bucs now go for their first six-game winning streak during the month of April since 2002.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Marte's ninth-inning single lifts Pirates past D-backs

Marte's ninth-inning single lifts Pirates past D-backs

A.J. Burnett and Rubby De La Rosa tangled in a battle of right-handers on Saturday at Chase Field with each pitcher throwing seven innings of one-run ball.

But neither hurler was around when Starling Marte singled home Neil Walker off Addison Reed with two out in the top of the ninth, giving the Bucs a 2-1 win in the second game of the three-game set. Tony Watson pitched out of big trouble in the bottom of the eighth to earn the win.

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Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

McCutchen on mini-slump: 'It's a matter of time'

McCutchen on mini-slump: 'It's a matter of time'

PHOENIX -- While it may not be possible to truly enjoy the deepest slump of your career, Andrew McCutchen is at least getting a kick out of his current drought.

An 0-for-4 in the Bucs' 2-1 Saturday night victory dug McCutchen's rut 16 at-bats deep. Including a pinch-hitting appearance, he has gone five consecutive games without a hit. Both represent career depths.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Watson brings out eighth-inning hammer for Bucs

Watson brings out eighth-inning hammer for Bucs

PHOENIX -- There is no truth to the fable that in 1939 playwright Eugene O'Neill wrote "The Iceman Cometh" in a moment of premonition about a future left-handed relief pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Nevertheless, Tony Watson keeps playing the part, and he particularly brought down the house Saturday night.

Watson's icy response to a harrowing eighth-inning threat maintained a 1-1 tie in a game the Bucs would take, 2-1.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Melancon comes through for third straight game

Melancon comes through for third straight game

PHOENIX -- Mark Melancon did not figure to be the man coming out of the bullpen if the Pirates needed a game to be saved Saturday night.

The closer who has pitched under a microscope had done his job well the previous two games, picking up saves on Thursday and Friday, with perfect ninth innings against the Cubs and the Diamondbacks.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cole delivers ace-like outing vs. D-backs

Pirates righty has seven straight wins dating back to last season

Cole delivers ace-like outing vs. D-backs

PHOENIX -- Early in Friday night's game, Gerrit Cole glanced up at Chase Field's video board and read the numbers next to the names of D-backs big boppers Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo with an inner scowl.

"Gosh, they're hitting near .300," Cole mused to himself.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pirates cruise with Cole leading the charge

Pirates cruise with Cole leading the charge

PHOENIX -- Gerrit Cole won his third straight start and improved to 7-0 in his last nine outings as he handcuffed the D-backs for 7 2/3 innings and the Pirates hung on for a 4-1 win on Friday night at Chase Field.

The Pirates jumped on D-backs starter Josh Collmenter for three runs in the first two innings, which provided all the support that Cole needed. Collmenter settled in to retire 12 straight after the rough beginning.

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Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Harrison cashing in on rare chances with RISP

Pirates third baseman drives in two runs with a double

Harrison cashing in on rare chances with RISP

PHOENIX -- If you thought you saw Pirates third baseman Josh Harrison's eyes grow bigger when he strode to the plate with two men on base in the second inning Friday night, you saw correctly.

Except Harrison always has that look with a bat in his hands.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

8-pitch at-bat by Polanco impresses Hurdle

Outfielder put Pirates ahead with RBI single vs. Cubs lefty Coke

8-pitch at-bat by Polanco impresses Hurdle

PHOENIX -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle confirmed on Friday what people thought they were seeing on Thursday: A defining at-bat in Gregory Polanco's career.

Not for the simple reason that Polanco's seventh-inning single broke a 4-4 tie against the Cubs and gave the Bucs an eventual 5-4 win at PNC Park. It wasn't the "what" so much as the "how."

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

McCutchen on Delgado HBP: 'It's the past'

Center fielder took a pitch to the back during series at Chase Field last year

McCutchen on Delgado HBP: 'It's the past'

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Conversing about the offshoot of inside pitches was a doubly relevant topic Friday for Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.

There was the memory of Andrew McCutchen's prior appearance here, which ended with him needing help putting on his shoes in Chase Field's visitors' clubhouse. A pitch by Arizona reliever Randall Delgado into his spine may have contributed to an avulsion rib fracture that had curbed his mobility -- and a week later would introduce him to the disabled list for the first time in his career.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Polanco's third hit caps Pirates' comeback vs. Cubs

Polanco's third hit caps Pirates' comeback vs. Cubs

PITTSBURGH -- Gregory Polanco hit an RBI double in a three-run sixth inning and a tie-breaking RBI single in the seventh to lift the Pirates to a 5-4 victory over the Cubs on Thursday, and split the four-game series.

"Arguably for us, it's one of the best team wins since I've been here with what we had and what we went out there with and how we were able to battle," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Despite scuffling, Locke bends but doesn't break

Despite scuffling, Locke bends but doesn't break

PITTSBURGH -- Left-hander Jeff Locke yielded four runs over five innings and received a no-decision as the Pirates rallied for a 5-4 win over the Cubs on Thursday afternoon.

Locke allowed seven hits and issued three walks, but he was able to use seven strikeouts to his advantage and limit the damage.

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George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Marte day to day with bruised right hand

Marte day to day with bruised right hand

PITTSBURGH -- Held out of the starting lineup with a bruised right hand, Starling Marte pinch-ran for Corey Hart in the seventh inning of the Pirates' 5-4 win over the Cubs on Thursday afternoon.

Marte was removed for a pinch-hitter in the fifth inning of Wednesday night's 4-3 victory over Chicago, two innings after being hit on the right hand by a pitch from Cubs right-hander Jason Hammel.

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George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Worley displays mettle in tough spots

Worley displays mettle in tough spots

PITTSBURGH -- Vance Worley limited the Cubs to one unearned run over 5 2/3 innings en route to the victory in the Pirates' 4-3 win on Wednesday night at PNC Park.

It was a windy, snowy affair and Worley battled through it, working around six hits and two walks while striking out five.

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George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Pirates stave off late rally to edge Cubs

Pirates stave off late rally to edge Cubs

PITTSBURGH -- Gregory Polanco smacked a solo home run and Francisco Cervelli hit an RBI double to lift the Pirates to a 4-3 victory over the Cubs, who came up short in a comeback bid on a chilly Wednesday night at PNC Park.

Polanco connected in the fifth off Jason Hammel, who took the loss, only the Cubs' fourth in their last 11 games. Vance Worley picked up the win, holding Chicago to one unearned run on six hits over 5 2/3 innings.

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Marte day to day after getting hit in hand

Marte day to day after getting hit in hand

PITTSBURGH -- Starling Marte was hit by a pitch on his right hand in the third inning of Wednesday's 4-3 win over the Cubs, and the outfielder left the game in the fifth.

X-rays on the hand were negative, and Marte was diagnosed with a soft tissue injury. The club will see how he feels for Thursday's matinee finale.

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George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Mazeroski among Bucs' Franchise Four leaders

Mazeroski among Bucs' Franchise Four leaders

PITTSBURGH -- The first voting results of Major League Baseball's Franchise Four campaign, announced Wednesday, reveal the Pirates' only living Hall of Famer among the four leaders as the most impactful players in the franchise's history.

Bill Mazeroski is running fourth in the voting, which is led by fellow Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell and Honus Wagner.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Rehabbing Morton set for simulated game

Rehabbing Morton set for simulated game

PITTSBURGH -- Right-hander Charlie Morton, recovering from right hip surgery, is on track to make a 65-pitch start in an extended spring training game, which is tentatively scheduled for Thursday. If that goes well, he will join one of the Pirates' Minor League clubs for a rehab assignment.

Morton's rehab stint is expected to last a full 30 days before he is activated. That would put his tentative return from the disabled list around June 1.

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George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Hurdle not fretting Melancon's early woes

Infielder Sellers making strides on rehab assignment

Hurdle not fretting Melancon's early woes

PITTSBURGH -- Pirates closer Mark Melancon suffered his first blown save of the year in Tuesday's 9-8 loss to the Cubs, giving up three hits, two walks and three runs in a messy ninth inning. It's the second three-run inning of the season for Melancon, who now has an 8.53 ERA.

Melancon was not available Wednesday, but manager Clint Hurdle said he will remain in the closer role.

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George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Kang's first extra-base hit, RBIs could boost confidence

After slump, shortstop clears bases with double in clutch situation

Kang's first extra-base hit, RBIs could boost confidence

PITTSBURGH -- In a baseball sense, it was the height of disrespect: In the seventh inning of a tied game Tuesday night, the Cubs chose to intentionally walk the man batting in front of Jung Ho Kang -- even though first base was already occupied.

The walk thus not only loaded the bases, but pushed a second runner into scoring position. Cubs manager Joe Maddon's strategy was rational. In his first 16 Major League at-bats, Kang hadn't yet hit a ball hard.

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Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Kang gets first Pirates RBIs, but Bucs fall

Kang gets first Pirates RBIs, but Bucs fall

PITTSBURGH -- Starlin Castro drove in four runs, two on a game-tying single in the ninth, and Welington Castillo's infield bouncer brought in the winning run Tuesday as the Cubs stormed back for a 9-8 win over the Pirates.

"When have we not played for nine innings?" Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "I'm really proud of our guys. They all did their jobs and are playing at a high level mentally and physically."

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Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.