Francisco Liriano pitches a gem, blanks Cardinals over eight innings

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Francisco Liriano was down on his luck when the Pirates signed him to a one-year, $1 million deal in February. He was coming off a year in which he posted a combined 5.34 ERA with the Twins and White Sox, the third time in four seasons he had posted an ERA in the fives.

Liriano made his season debut with the Pirates on May 11 and has looked like the ace many envisioned him becoming back in 2006 when he finished third in AL Rookie of the Year balloting. That continued tonight in an important game against the division rival Cardinals, entering the night with a tenuous one-game lead over the second-place Pirates. First baseman Garrett Jones gave his pitcher a ton of support, going 3-for-4 with a homer and four RBI, but just his two-run double in the first inning would have sufficed as Liriano was dominant from the outset.

Liriano tossed eight shutout innings, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out six. The Cardinals never once had a runner in scoring position against Liriano. Mark Melancon danced around a pair of base runners in the ninth to nail down the 5-0 victory. The 78-56 Cardinals and Pirates enter into a first place tie atop the NL Central. The two clubs have five more games against each other through the remainder of the regular season.

Former major league pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez dies in traffic accident

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Former Phillies right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez died in a traffic accident in Havana on Thursday, per reports from the El Nuevo Herald and CiberCuba. No other deaths or injuries have been reported in connection to the accident. Gonzalez was 34 years old.

The Cuban righty defected from his home country in 2013 and signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Phillies. A bout of right shoulder tendinitis compromised his bid for a major league role, but he finally broke through to the big leagues at the tail end of the 2014 season and turned in a 6.75 ERA, 5.1 BB/9 and 8.4 SO/9 in just six outings. Another case of shoulder inflammation derailed any progress he might have made in 2015, however, and he recorded just five innings in Triple-A Lehigh Valley before the team officially released him prior to the 2016 season.

The Phillies released a statement following news of Gonzalez’s death: