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.

Pirates acquire Erik González from Indians

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The Pirates announced on Wednesday that the club acquired infielder Erik González along with minor league pitchers Tahnaj Thomas and Dante Mendoza in exchange for outfielder Jordan Luplow and infielder Max Moroff.

González, 27, is quite versatile, having played all four infield positions as well as both outfield corners. He has just a .681 career OPS across 275 plate appearances in the big leagues, though. González will provide infield depth for the Pirates, who are losing Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer.

Thomas, 19, completed his second season at rookie ball. He pitched 19 2/3 innings, yielding 10 earned runs on 13 hits and 10 walks with 27 strikeouts.

Mendoza, 19, also just completed his second season at rookie ball. The right-hander pitched 37 1/3 innings, allowing 19 earned runs on 33 hits and 20 walks with 37 strikeouts.

Luplow, 25, has played 64 games in the big leagues as an outfielder, mustering a paltry .644 OPS in 190 plate appearances.

Moroff, 25, has played second base, third base, and short stop in the majors. He carries a career .625 OPS in 209 trips to the plate.