Originally written on Pirates Prospects  |  Last updated 11/9/14
Pedro Alvarez launched his 10th June home run, most in a month for his career. (Photo Credit: David Hague) From Pedro Alvarez homering into the Allegheny River to Garrett Jones homering into the center field bushes, the Pirates got the natural environment involved in their eighth-straight win Saturday night. It contrasted with the supernatural – the Bucs reaching 50 wins in June for the first time in franchise history and maintaining baseball’s best record. A 2-1 victory in front of a record fifth-straight PNC Park sellout showed an unnatural baseball fever developing in front of the Pittsburgh skyline. And the players feel it. “We’re playing for ourselves, but there’s about 40,000 people tonight,” closer Jason Grilli said. “It’s just awesome to see everybody dusting off their Pirates shirts and coming out in droves to finally get what they’ve been wanting for so long.” Starter Francisco Liriano’s offspeed stuff was a force of nature itself, generating 9 Brewers swings-and-misses and helping the Pittsburgh lefty to six strikeouts and his 5th quality start in June. Pitching strong middle innings almost allowed Liriano to go for a season-long start, but he allowed three hits and his only run in his 6th and final inning. “It means a lot to me,” Liriano said. “Every five days, just trying to give it everything I have.” Offense was hard for the Pirates to – ahem – run into aside from the left-handed home runs. Rookie Donovan Hand looked like a natural as he kept the Pirates at bay over his five innings, though he did get his first MLB loss in the start. Only three Pittsburgh baserunners got into scoring position on Hand and no inning saw more than one hit. But Alvarez and Jones showed the power that has become second nature for them. Alvarez crushed a 1-2 curveball over the stands, through a tree and into the Allegheny to open the scoring and notch his 20th home run, only one behind NL leaders Carlos Gonzalez and Domonic Brown. Jones’ homer to lead off the 4th simply kept traveling and traveling until it found leaves. Starling Marte’s 3rd-inning double (which could have been a triple if Marte were not about to lap Liriano on the bases) was the Pirates’ only other extra-base hit. Francisco Liriano goes to 7-3 this year, tying him for the team-high in wins. (Photo Credit: David Hague) Naturally, it wasn’t easy for Liriano with a small lead. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Liriano was “challenged” by the Brewers’ righty-heavy lineup, especially Carlos Gomez grabbing a triple to the Notch and infield single, but the starter got strikeouts and scoreless frames in each of his first five innings. His outing kept the Pirates’ team ERA at an MLB-best 3.15 this season. “It’s all about location when I’m pitching here,” Liriano said, as he allowed no walks after his first batter. ”Every time I pitch against the Brewers, it’s a battle for me.” Liriano said he could have gone another inning, but it’s in Hurdle’s nature to go to his stellar bullpen. Tony Watson went 1-2-3 in the 7th. Mark Melancon collected two strikeouts and a scoreless 8th. Then Jason Grilli needed only six pitches to rebound from a three-runs-allowed struggle Sunday, get his league-leading 27th save and wrap up the half-century wins mark in front of 38,438 cheering fireworks-turned-baseball fans. “Sellout crowds, we’ve been waiting for that,” Grilli said. “I’m excited and elated to be in the situation where that energy, just soaking it. It’s going in to me.” And it’s going into the Pirates’ success. The Bucs are now 20 games above .500, have won 10 of their last 12 games and clinched a third-straight series victory against a Brewers team that had gone 69-24 against them over the previous six seasons. Pittsburgh has built a 10-game cushion for a playoff spot as it enters the season’s halfway point following Sunday’s game. Seems like something out of The Natural, eh?
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Jay Gruden: RG3 to remain starter against Colts

LeBron James on four-game losing streak: 'I stink'

Report: Johnny Manziel and his entourage involved in brawl

Report: Mariners sign Kyle Seager to $100 million extension

Reports confirm Ryan Mallett is out for the season

Golden Tate: Loss to Patriots was 'embarrassing'

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Pete Carroll: Beating Cards ‘best feeling we’ve had all year’

Bill Belichick burns Dominic Raiola over cheap shot

Tom Brady: ‘It’s fun going to Lambeau’

Anquan Boldin after exchange with Jim Haslett: He’s irrelevant

Ryan Mallett reportedly could be done for season

Report: Sandoval agrees to deal with BoSox, agent denies report

The top 25 greatest rivalries in college football history

WATCH: Tom Brady sits down for interview with Randy Moss

UNC vandalized Duke locker room with spray paint after win

Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez highlight Hall of Fame ballot

Sales of Odell Beckham Jr.'s jersey on the rise

RG3 struggles again, Redskins offense stuck in neutral

12 amazing stats from Week 12

Hockey Fights of the Week

Three head coaches who won't be with current team in 2015

Katy Perry confirmed as Super Bowl XLIX halftime performer

10 takeaways from Sunday's Week 12 NFL action

WWE Survivor Series results: Sting debuts, Team Cena wins

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Greatest college football rivalries

LeBron on losing streak: 'I stink'

Report: Manziel, friends get in brawl

Tate: Loss to Pats was 'embarrassing'

Bill Belichick burns Dominic Raiola

Boldin on Haslett: He's irrelevant

Pablo Sandoval signs with Red Sox?

Beckham makes the catch of the season

10 takeaways from NFL Week 12

WWE Survivor Series results

Report: Red Sox set to add Hanley Ramirez

Dominic Raiola admits to dirty play

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.