Francisco Liriano finally got to pitch for Pittsburgh and, just like that, the Pirates looked like a much better team.
He struck out nine and the Pirates teed off on New York’s pitching for an 11-2 win over the Mets on Saturday.
“He’s pitched before and he’s been good,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “Good to have him in the fold now, for me it’s — three left-handers in the rotation, I like that a lot. Especially in the division we’re in, the way we match up against the team.
Jordy Mercer homered twice and Jose Tabata had four hits, including a two-run shot for the Pirates.
The Mets have struggled to score at home, but the start by Jonathon Niese (2-4) would have put any team in a hole. He tied a career high by allowing eight runs, and walked more batters than he struck out for the fourth time in eight starts this season.
Liriano (1-0), returning from a broken non-throwing arm, allowed one run in 51/3 innings and 90 pitches. He gave up six hits and two walks.
“Today went good. Really good location and just using a lot today,” Liriano said. “It was a little weird, nervous. But that went away and it just feels good to get the first one out of the way.”
After a late-spring injury to Jeff Karstens and the release of Jonathan Sanchez, the Pirates needed the help in their rotation. Now they can line up Liriano after fellow lefties Jeff Locke and Wandy Rodriguez.
“Three left-handers in the rotation, I like that a lot,” Hurdle said. “You can probably count the teams on one hand that have really good offensive splits more so against left-handed pitchers than against right-handed pitching.”
The Pirates jumped on Niese early, and finally drove him out of the game in the fifth.
Mercer hit a solo shot after third baseman David Wright made a nifty barehanded play to throw out Starling Marte, and Tabata hit an RBI double off the base of the wall in center field.
Michael McKenry followed with a two-run single off reliever Scott Atchison and Clint Barmes followed with an RBI single before Liriano popped foul to end the inning.