MILWAUKEE (AP) – Francisco Liriano had seven strikeouts and two big mistakes for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The margin of error is slim when facing a streaking team like the Milwaukee Brewers.
Liriano befuddled the Brewers with his slider before giving up a two-run homer to Aramis Ramirez in the fourth that helped Milwaukee extend its winning streak to seven with a 4-2 victory Friday night over Pittsburgh.
The Brewers added two more runs in the fifth on a solo shot by Mark Reynolds and a two-out single from Carlos Gomez.
“I made two mistakes and you can’t make those kinds of mistakes at this level,” said Liriano (0-2), who allowed four hits over six innings.
Pittsburgh star Andrew McCutchen had two steals but was lifted after lining out to end the eighth, when he told manager Clint Hurdle he may have hurt an ankle. The 2013 NL MVP appeared to be walking around in the clubhouse afterward without a limp.
“I had the trainer look at him and didn’t think it was worth having him try to press on from there,” Hurdle said.
Ramirez kept up his torrid hitting with his drive to left on a 1-2 pitch, backing Wily Peralta’s solid outing. At 8-2, the Brewers are off to their best start since opening with 13 wins in 1987.
“Everything’s clicking. We’ll continue to grind this thing out as best as we can, but we’re doing a lot of good things,” manager Ron Roenicke said.
Ramirez’s clutch hitting is at the top of the list. He is batting .727 (8 for 11) with runners in scoring position through the season’s first 10 games.
“I would say that’s part of job – I’m a cleanup hitter driving in runs, so I have to concentrate a little harder when I have guys in scoring position,” Ramirez said.
Milwaukee missed his bat for stretches of the 2013 season, when he was bothered by a left knee injury. Now, the Brewers have their cleanup hitter back, along with No. 3 hitter Ryan Braun, who returned from a 65-game suspension stemming from baseball’s investigation of a Florida anti-aging clinic.
Peralta (1-0) allowed four hits in seven innings, but gave up a two-run homer to Neil Walker in the seventh.
Francisco Rodriguez struck out the side in the ninth for his third save.
Pittsburgh didn’t get a runner past second base until Walker went deep. McCutchen had reached second twice on two-out steals, but Peralta retired cleanup hitter Pedro Alvarez each time to end the inning, including a strikeout on a slider in the sixth.
Liriano dominated early, keeping hitters off balance with his slider. He breezed through the first three innings with five strikeouts on 32 pitches.
“It’s all about command for him. His challenges have been earlier in games when they haven’t worked out well for him,” Hurdle said. “Today he got off a clean start. The two fastballs he left up tonight did the damage.”
The Pirates entered having started the season by winning three straight series for the first time since 1992. ... Pittsburgh is in the middle of a stretch in which it is starting the season with 26 straight games against NL Central foes. ... Pirates LHP Jeff Locke was reinstated from the 15-day DL and optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. Locke is recovering from a right oblique strain. ... The Brewers’ Yovani Gallardo (2-0) faces the Pirates’ Edinson Volquez (0-0) on Saturday night.