MINNEAPOLIS -- The latest sign of Francisco Liriano's season-long struggle was this: An otherwise well-pitched game was ruined by a pair of mistakes the light-hitting Pittsburgh Pirates sent sailing into the seats.
Ian Snell won for the first time in two months and Andrew McCutchen hit his first major league home run Wednesday night, leading the Pirates past Liriano and the Minnesota Twins 8-2."It's really frustrating, because every time I miss one pitch it just changes the whole game," Liriano said. "I don't know what to do anymore."McCutchen and Andy LaRoche each hit two-run shots against Liriano (2-8), who lasted seven innings but hurt himself again with a couple of costly lapses in pitch location. Adam LaRoche also homered for Pittsburgh, in a three-run eighth against reliever Sean Henn, to match his little brother. The last time siblings homered in the same game for the Pirates was 1938: Lloyd and Paul Waner.Pittsburgh has only 40 home runs in 65 games, though seven in the last six."Full moon, I guess," manager John Russell said.The Pirates moved past San Francisco out of last place in the majors in the power category."I couldn't stop smiling after a while, because I saw seven runs on the board against a good team," Snell said. "We just played great, and I'm very grateful and thankful that I got a win."Like Liriano, Snell (2-7) has regressed since his first full season in 2006. He hasn't received much run support this year, but after a rough May and a so-so start to June the right-hander came through with a sharp performance: six innings, five hits, three walks and just two runs."He pitched OK and wasn't quite as efficient as we would've liked," Russell said. "He didn't give up many hits. It's good to get a win for him, and I think that's going to be a big boost for him."Joe Mauer doubled and scored, but even the .425-hitting Minnesota catcher made two outs against Snell after racking up four hits the night before. Mauer has hit in 37 of 43 games he's played in this season.After the Twins peppered starter Paul Maholm for 14 hits over five innings of Tuesday's victory, Snell was much stingier. Joe Crede's two-out, two-run double tied it at 2 and atoned for his first-inning-ending flyout with two on, but Liriano soon lost the lead and Snell stayed steady."Seems like Ian later in the game is really good," Russell said. "We just have to find a way to get him over the hump."Liriano is sort of the opposite.After an awful May, he turned a corner with two quality starts on the last road trip. But he continues to have trouble during the second time through the lineup, and he can't dominate the way he did as a rookie before his elbow problem flared up.Adam LaRoche led off the fourth with a double and was nearly thrown out from right field by the rocket-armed Michael Cuddyer, but shortstop Brendan Harris dropped the one-hopper at second base. Liriano struck out the next two batters, but he left a fastball over the plate that Andy LaRoche sent into the left-field seats for a 4-2 lead.Aside from the two mistakes, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was actually pleased by the way Liriano pitched. He was more upset by the throw that Harris dropped, the poor at-bats with runners in scoring position and the mess that Henn and Luis Ayala created in the eighth and ninth."We did a little bit of everything tonight, all on the negative side," Gardenhire said.
McCutchen, the 11th overall pick in the 2005 draft, has a hit in 11 of 13 games since he was called up. Six of those are multi-hit games. ... A group of Vikings assistant coaches watched batting practice and joked to Gardenhire they'll try to recruit Mauer to play quarterback if Brett Favre decides not to end his retirement. "I love you, Vikings, but you're not going to get my guy," Gardenhire said. ... Despite being put on the DL, Twins OF Denard Span was relieved by the diagnosis of an inner ear virus. He might try some swinging, throwing and running by the end of the week. ... Andy LaRoche on Adam's homer: "I know he always is going to have the last say. I finally get ahead of him in RBIs, and the next time up he puts up two RBIs."