PITTSBURGH -- The issues that befell Francisco Liriano during the first five innings of Tuesday's game embodied those that have affected the Pirates all season. The team that won 94 games last year did so with an exceptional pitching staff. This year's crew, made up of mostly the same faces, has not performed to that level.
Say what you want about pitcher's wins as an instructive statistic, but the Pirates only have five of them, and Gerrit Cole has four.
The unit now has 20 losses, the latest a 9-2 defeat at the bats of Chris Davis and the Baltimore Orioles at PNC Park on Tuesday night. Davis went 4 for 5 and hit three home runs off three different Pirates pitchers, driving in five runs in the process. The Pirates fell to 18-26 after losing their fourth game out of five.
Liriano (0-4) allowed six runs, four of them in the fifth inning, on nine hits, two of them consecutive home runs by Davis and Cruz. He walked only two, but they came at the wrong time and led to two runs.
During Liriano's past five starts, he has a 5.82 ERA with 26 hits and 12 walks allowed in 212/3 innings. Liriano has a 5.48 ERA in every start since he threw six scoreless innings on opening day.
The Pirates' starters entered the game ranked 26th in the majors with a 4.48 ERA. The fact that 14.5 percent of fly balls allowed left the ballpark, the third-worst rate in MLB, contributes to that ERA. That represents a sharp departure from the 3.50 ERA and 9.4 percent home-run-to-fly-ball rate from 2013.
Liriano allowed the majority of the damage, but Davis wasn't done after Liriano left. He hit a two-run homer off of Liriano in the fifth, a solo shot facing Jared Hughes in the seventh and another two-run shot in the ninth of Jeanmar Gomez. Davis hit three home runs in a game for the second time in his career, the first coming Aug. 24, 2012 against the Toronto Blue Jays, and the three homers doubled his season total.
Through three innings, Liriano looked locked in. He allowed two singles and no other ball left the infield during that time.
Eight Orioles batters forced Liriano to throw 34 pitches in the fourth. Davis hit into the shift, but reached on an infield single. Liriano then walked Cruz on four pitches. J.J. Hardy's single to center scored Davis, tying the game at 1-1. Jonathan Schoop hit another infield single to load the bases.
Liriano walked catcher Caleb Joseph, a rookie with 13 major league plate appearances who replaced the injured Matt Wieters on the roster, to force in a run, and the Orioles led, 2-1.
Manny Machado hit a dribbling infield single to start the fifth, but that's where the soft contact ended. Adam Jones doubled to the wall in right field to score Machado just ahead of Jordy Mercer's relay throw. Davis then hit a hanging slider over the Clemente Wall.
Cruz followed that with another homer, the Orioles led 6-1 and the Pirates' bullpen began to stir.
Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez struck out seven batters without issuing a walk in six-plus innings. He allowed two runs and earned the win to improve to 2-3.
Three consecutive singles from Josh Harrison, Walker and McCutchen scored a run in the third inning.
Ike Davis homered off Gonzalez to lead off the seventh, ending Gonzalez's night.
The Pirates hit into inning-ending double plays in the seventh and eighth innings with two men on base and three double plays total on the night.
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