The Chicago Cubs ' offense seemed to be coming around, but it was shut out for the first time in nearly a month in the team's most recent contest.
It hasn't been able to score off Francisco Liriano , either.
The left-hander looks to continue his solid run this season by helping the Pittsburgh Pirates defeat the Cubs for the sixth time in seven tries Friday at Wrigley Field.
Liriano (7-3, 2.23 ERA) has allowed one run or none in seven of his 10 starts, striking out 67 in 60 2-3 innings. He beat Milwaukee on Saturday, yielding a run in six innings of a 2-1 win and registering six strikeouts for the third straight outing.
"We're playing pretty good baseball right now and have to continue it, so every five days I go out and try to do my job," Liriano said. "So far, so good."
The left-hander's success has been a major reason the Pirates (52-32) possess baseball's best winning percentage past the halfway point of the season.
"We're having fun, we're playing hard and we're giving everything we have," Liriano said.
Liriano has been stellar in two starts against Chicago this season, allowing two hits in seven innings in each and winning 1-0 on May 22 and 2-0 on June 7.
That last matchup marked the last time the Cubs were shut out prior to Sunday's 1-0 defeat at Oakland. Alfonso Soriano and Starlin Castro recorded the team's only hits off last-minute Triple-A call-up Dan Straily .
"It was a shame," manager Dale Sveum said. "Six shutout innings. (Wood) pitched another great ballgame. One little passed ball."
The Cubs (36-47) had averaged 6.1 runs and finished with at least 10 hits five times over their previous nine games.
"You have to keep battling every single day," Wood said. "Their guy pitched awesome. He kept us off balance and off the scoreboard. Have to find a way to win these games."
Jeff Samardzija enters his start Friday not having received one run of support in two outings versus Pittsburgh this year and lost both. He opposed Liriano in May, giving up one run in seven innings, before allowing four runs in six frames of a 6-2 defeat to the Pirates on June 8. He's still 3-2 with a 1.66 ERA in five career starts against them.
Samardzija (5-7, 3.34) is 2-0 with a 2.82 ERA over his last three outings after giving up two runs in seven innings of a 5-3, 11-inning win over Seattle on Saturday.
The right-hander hopes for another solid outing against a Pittsburgh team that had won nine straight before dropping two of three to Philadelphia, including Thursday's 6-4 defeat.
The Pirates have won six of nine meetings with the Cubs this season, though Chicago ended a five-game skid in the series with a 4-1 win June 9. McCutchen is hitting .444 with three doubles over the last five matchups.
It's unclear if Cubs center fielder Brian Bogusevic will play after leaving Thursday's contest in the third inning with a left hamstring injury. He's hitting .300 in eight games since being called up from the minors.
|June 09, 2013||A.J. Burnett||15-Day DL||Strained right calf|
|June 06, 2013||Jared Hughes||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|June 06, 2013||Wandy Rodriguez||15-Day DL||Left forearm tightness|
|June 03, 2013||Phil Irwin||60-Day DL||Right arm fatigue|
|June 03, 2013||Jeanmar Gomez||15-Day DL||Right forearm tightness|
|June 03, 2013||Jeanmar Gomez||15-Day DL||Right forearm tightness|
|June 30, 2013||Ryan Sweeney||60-Day DL||Fractured left rib|
|June 15, 2013||David DeJesus||15-Day DL||Right shoulder sprain|
|June 14, 2013||David DeJesus||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right shoulder|
|June 12, 2013||Zach Putnam||60-Day DL||Right elbow soreness|
|June 11, 2013||Zach Putnam||Day-to-Day||Left game - Undisclosed injury|
|May 27, 2013||Kyuji Fujikawa||60-Day DL||Right elbow surgery - out for season|
CHICAGO (AP) -- Whether he earns an invitation or not, Francisco Liriano at least is pitching like an All-Star.
The arm problems and struggles that weighed him down in recent seasons appear to be behind him. Now, all he's doing is breezing through opposing lineups.
Liriano pitched a four-hitter for his first complete game in more than two years, and the Pittsburgh Pirates won for the 11th time in 13 games, beating the Chicago Cubs 6-2 on Friday.
"This is an exclamation point to what he's been doing, to finish that game off today. In command throughout," manager Clint Hurdle said.
An All-Star as a rookie in 2006, Liriano went the distance for the first time since he tossed a no-hitter for Minnesota against the White Sox on May 3, 2011. He struck out seven and walked four to improve 5-1 in his last six starts while tossing the first complete game by a Pittsburgh pitcher this season. He also had an RBI single.
The rosters for this year's All-Star game at Citi Field in New York will be announced on Saturday.
The Pirates, meanwhile, continue to roll along. They came in with the best record in the majors and a two-game lead over St. Louis in the NL Central, and they matched a season high by going 21 games over .500 on a day when the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija (5-8) couldn't keep the ball down in the zone.
Starling Marte had three hits to extend his streak to 10 games, scored two runs and stole two bases to back another strong start by Liriano (8-3).
The left-hander gave up a two-run homer to Scott Hairston but not much else while improving to 3-0 against the Cubs this season.
"I'm having pretty good success here in Chicago," Liriano said.
He's having success, period. After back-to-back seasons with ERAs above 5.00, he's at 2.20 after this gem. He's consistently plowing through opponents in a way he hasn't since he was starting out with the Twins and before he had Tommy John elbow surgery.
That caused him to miss the 2007 season, and he's had his ups and downs since then. He was certainly in command on Friday, one home run aside.
"I made one mistake, fastball right down the middle, so it was a home run," Liriano said. "After that everything was down in the zone."
That drive by Hairston came after Liriano knocked in the game's first run in the top half with a single over shortstop Starlin Castro 's glove.
The hit was just his fourth in 35 at-bats. It also gave him his first RBI since he was with Minnesota in 2011 and three in his career.
Garrett Jones , who's from suburban Tinley Park, Ill., had two hits. He drove in a run and scored one before Gaby Sanchez replaced him at first in the seventh inning.
Neil Walker delivered an RBI triple and scored during a three-run third that gave the Pirates a 4-2 lead and sent them to their seventh straight road win.
For Samardzija, it was simply a rough day. The 6-foot-5 right-hander gave up five runs in six innings, allowing nine hits for the second time in three starts while walking five. It was the most for him since he issued six against St. Louis last July 28.
"Everything was up in the zone," said Samardzija, who also hit a batter. "Good pitches for them to hit. You mix that with being behind in the count, you're going to put yourself in a battle."
Samardzija couldn't protect the lead after Hairston went deep off Liriano in the second, immediately giving up three in the third.
Center fielder Dave Sappelt didn't help matters when he took a bad angle trying to cut off a drive by Walker after Marte led off with a bunt single, resulting in an RBI triple. Jones drove in a run with a single and Andrew McCutcheon raced home from third on a double steal as Jones swiped second on a high throw while Russell Martin struck out, making it 4-2.
Chicago catcher Dioner Navarro got banged up in the eighth trying to pick Marte off third. He said his hand hit plate umpire Vic Carapazza's mask and his elbow hit McCutchen's bat, leaving him numb momentarily, but he stayed in the game.
Castro committed a mistake on the bases in the bottom half with the Cubs down four. He doubled with two out and got caught off second by the catcher, Martin, with Navarro batting.
"It's not a smart play," Castro said. "I feel really, really bad. That can't happen. Down by four, eighth inning, that run is not important. I was trying to be aggressive, but that can't happen."
NOTES: A.J. Burnett will start Sunday for the Pirates after being sidelined the past month by a strained right calf, Hurdle said. The veteran right-hander is 4-6 with a 3.12 ERA in 14 starts. ... Cubs manager Dale Sveum said OF David DeJesus , on the 15-day DL with a sprained right shoulder, has started swinging off a tee and can raise his arm over his head. He said there's no timetable for a return. Sveum also said OF Brian Bogusevic is day to day after leaving Thursday's game at Oakland because of tightness in his left hamstring. ... RHP Charlie Morton (1-1, 2.50 ERA) makes his fifth start for the Pirates on Saturday, with RHP Edwin Jackson (4-10, 5.75) pitching for the Cubs.