The last man to no-hit the Chicago Cubs was left-hander Sandy Koufax in September 1965, when the Dodgers’ pitcher tossed a perfect game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
On Sunday afternoon, Pirates southpaw Francisco Liriano nearly joined Koufax on that short list. The former Twins’ ace, who has seen a rejuvenation this season with Pittsburgh, took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning at PNC Park, before Junior Lake singled on a ball in the hole between shortstop and third base. Welington Castillo followed with a two-run shot to left-center field, tying the game 2-2, and sending Liriano to the locker room earlier than anticipated.
Newcomer Justin Morneau laced an opposite field base hit to left field against Pedro Strop in the bottom of the eighth inning and Andrew McCutchen, who reached earlier in the inning on a hit-by-pitch, raced around to score, giving Pittsburgh a 3-2 advantage heading into the ninth inning against Bucs’ closer Mark Melancon, who stepped into the role when Jason Grilli fell subject to injury earlier this summer.
The left-hander made it a perfect three-for-three in the series, nailing down all three save opportunities against Chicago.
Cubs’ starter Travis Wood was no slouch either, allowing just two runs over six innings of work. A triple off the bat of Jose Tabata led off the game for Pittsburgh, and he came around to score on a wild pitch during the next at-bat. The left-hander settled down, allowing just one more run – on a solo shot by Tony Sanchez in the fourth inning – in the rest of the ballgame.
Wood’s final line in six innings was two earned runs allowed on five hits, while punching out four and walking just two. He was pulled in the seventh in favor of big right-hander Justin Grimm.
Liriano’s line looked quite similar to his Chicago counterpart, tossing six innings and allowing two earned runs on three hits. He struck out four and walked four, showing signs of control difficulties as the game went on, especially in the sixth inning. All three hits came in succession in the seventh against the southpaw.
Former Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd was the only man on either roster who notched multiple hits, collecting two in the Pirates’ win.
The Cubs begin a series against the Brewers tomorrow night. Edwin Jackson wakes the hill for Chicago and will be opposed by Wily Peralta. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. CDT at Miller Park in Milwaukee.