PHILADELPHIA — Francisco Liriano tossed eight dominant innings against Philadelphia. The only time the Phillies managed to score was in the ninth after Liriano's work was done.
Liriano struck out a season-high 12, and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Phillies 4-1 on Thursday night. He allowed only six baserunners.
Pittsburgh won for the seventh time in eight games to strengthen their hold on the second wild-card spot in the National League. Ike Davis and Neil Walker broke out of slumps with RBI hits, and the Pirates scored three times in the sixth inning.
Liriano (5-10) got rare run support from his teammates, who had scored three runs or fewer in 13 of the lefthander's last 17 appearances. He struck out at least 12 for the fifth time in his career and won his second consecutive decision.
"I feel great, like I had pretty good command," Liriano said. "I feel great physically and mentally. Everything is getting better, location-wise. I'm just trying to get better every start."
He finished three strikeouts shy of his career-best of 15.
"I got a lot of swings and misses," said Liriano, who has allowed only 17 earned runs in his last 69 innings, dating to July 18.
Mark Melancon allowed one of two runners left by Jared Hughes to score in the ninth, but earned his 29th save in 33 opportunities.
Philadelphia starter A.J. Burnett (8-16) allowed four runs and six hits in six innings.
Burnett, a member of the Pirates rotation last season, also was impressed by his former teammate Liriano.
"That's the best I've seen him in a long time," he said.
Walker went 2-for-3 with a double, a run and an RBI, and Russell Martin singled, scored a run and drove in another for Pittsburgh, which took three of four from Philadelphia.
The Pirates got on the board when Davis, in a 2-for-18 slump, singled to score Martin in the second inning.
In the sixth, Walker — mired in a 1-for-14 rut — doubled in Travis Snider to make it 2-0. Martin added a sacrifice fly, and Gregory Polanco followed with an RBI single.
Liriano did the rest to make the lead hold up.
"Everything looks like a fastball coming at you," said Martin, Liriano's catcher. "You can tell yourself a slider is coming, but your mind is telling you it's a fastball, then it breaks."
Josh Harrison, who entered with an NL-best .318 average, went 0-for-5 for Pittsburgh. He dropped to .314 and into second place behind Colorado's Justin Morneau.
The Phillies — who have lost six of seven — batted .156 (10-for-64) in their last two games against Pittsburgh. An RBI single in the ninth inning by Carlos Ruiz prevented their 14th shutout loss of the season.
"He had great stuff with a real good changeup," said Freddy Galvis, who had one of Philadelphia's six hits. "He had a good night."
Burnett, who led the NL in strikeouts last season while pitching for Pittsburgh, fanned seven Pirates.
Pirates: LF Starling Marte was briefly back in the lineup. One night after being hit by a pitch in the hand in the first inning, Marte was plunked in the second inning. Marte left in the third due to discomfort in his left arm, and was replaced by Polanco. . RHP Charlie Morton, out with a sports hernia since Aug. 15, will throw a light bullpen session on Friday.
Phillies: LF Domonic Brown didn't start because of a bruised left shoulder. He likely wouldn't have played anyway against a left-handed pitcher, manager Ryne Sandberg said. . Sandberg said there is still no timetable for the return of SS Jimmy Rollins, who strained his left hamstring on Monday.
Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (8-5, 3.89) gets the ball in the opener of three-game series with the visiting Chicago Cubs. Cole, 4-0 against the Cubs, will oppose LHP Tsuyoshi Wada (4-2,2.95).
Phillies: LHP Cole Hamels (8-7, 2.56), who owns the NL's third-lowest ERA, opens the weekend series against visiting Miami. He will face Marlins RHP Henderson Alvarez (10-6,2.88).
END OF THE LINE
Phillies CF Ben Revere snapped an 0-for-14 slump with a sixth inning single. It was the longest hitless streak of the season for Revere, who entered in fourth place in the NL batting race.
Pirates: Marte had two streaks end: a 10-game hitting streak and a run of five consecutive multi-hit games.