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Sweep City

By Adam Kunkle - @bucsraiseit

The Bucs entered Wednesday's matinee against the defending World Champs looking to secure a three game sweep, and end a seven game jaunt through California with a 5-2 mark. Looking to secure his third win of the year, Francisco Liriano took the hill for the Pirates against veteran right hander Tim Hudson.

Both pitchers settled in nicely to start the game, recording 1,2,3 innings in the first two. In keeping with the recent trend, the Giants were the first to strike in the third inning, following pitcher Hudson's one out double. The hit was the first for San Francisco. After an Nori Aoki single, Joe Panik followed with a single of his own to plate Hudson. Aoki then killed the Giants momentum by ending the third caught stealing.

As they have the first two games of the series, the Bucs responded quickly in the fourth inning. Following McCutchen and Walker singles, Jose Tabata, who started in place of the slumping Starling Marte singled with two outs to score Cutch and tie the game at one.

The offense added a run in the fifth, thanks to a suddenly surging Jordy Mercer, who led off the inning with his second home run in as many games. Mercer, who seems to be driven by the recent competition forced by the play of Jung Ho Kang, also recorded another error in the field, but seems to be seeing pitches better in his at bats.

Following the early run, Liriano found his groove and was able to shut down the leagues best hitting team through 7 strong innings. The Giants failed to come up with clutch at bats, and Liriano really seemed to be commanding his pitches well. Jared Hughes came into pitch the eighth, filling in for Tony Watson who was unavailable for today's game. After giving up two lead off singles to start the frame, Hughes was bailed out by Mercer who stabbed a line drive by Angel Pagan to double off Aoki. Hughes then got Buster Posey to ground out to end the inning.

In the ninth, the Bucs looked to extend the lead and potentially give Melancon the night off. They did just that by adding three runs behind another base hit by Tabata, and some smart baserunning by pinch runner, Marte. Cervelli then delivered a single to score Marte from third, while Mercer collected his second hit of the game, a double off of reliever Sergio Romo. Finally, pinch hitter and recently slumping slugger Jung Ho Kang, raked a double to the left center gap to score Mercer and Cervelli, extending the lead to 5-1.

While the plan was to rest Melancon in the ninth with a comfortable four run lead, unfortunately reliever Rob Scahill dug a hole, loading the bases with one out and Brandon Crawford coming up. Melancon, who was now facing a save situation, nailed the door shut, forcing two ground ball outs to end the game and give the Pirates the sweep.

Game notes: Andrew McCutchen was 6 for 10 (.600) with four RBIs this series. After going the entire months of April and May without a homerun, Jordy Mercer hits two in consecutive days. Frankie finished with the W (3-4), adding 6 K's and just one walk on four hits. The Pirates are a season best five games over .500 (29-24) and trail the Cardinals by six games.

Up Next: The Bucs travel to Atlanta to face the Braves in a three game series. The Braves are one game under .500 (26-27) and in third place in the East, three games behind the Washington Nationals.