PITTSBURGH (AP) _ Francisco Liriano kept up a Pittsburgh parade of strikeouts that hadn’t been seen in nearly a half-century.
Liriano fanned 12 and the Pirates beat the New York Mets 9-1 Sunday for a three-game sweep.
After Gerrit Cole fanned 10 in the opener and A.J. Burnett struck out 10 more Saturday, Liriano (2-4) topped them in only six innings.
Not since 1969 had three straight Pittsburgh starters fanned at least 10. Bob Veale struck out 12 vs. St. Louis, then Bob Moose got 10 and Dock Ellis had 11 in a doubleheader against the Mets.
“I was executing pitches and not trying to do too much,” he said. “I just stayed calm and I got a lot of swings and misses today. Everything was working down.”
“For me, it’s never been about strikeouts,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It sure is nice when you can get them. Nobody plays. You talk about soft outs, it’s a pitcher and a catcher playing catch.”
Liriano gave up one run and six hits. He had given up seven runs in the final two innings of his previous start.
“It was the start he needed,” Hurdle said. “It was the start we needed from him.”
The Mets put runners on second and third with no outs in the second, but Liriano came back to strike out the side.
Pirates starters combined to limit the Mets to two runs in 21 1-3 innings over the weekend series.
Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte homered for Pittsburgh.
Jonathon Niese (3-5) allowed four runs on seven hits and four walks in 4 2-3 innings.
The Mets finished 4-10 in a 14-game stretch against teams from the NL Central.
Pittsburgh scored first as Jordy Mercer’s RBI double in the fourth provided a 1-0 lead. The Mets tied it in the fifth on Wilmer Flores’ RBI single.
The Pirates chased Niese in the fifth after he yielded the home run to McCutchen and a RBI single to Francisco Cervelli. Niese hung a breaking ball that McCutchen sent into the bullpens over the fence in left-center.
“I had a feeling he was sitting on that pitch,” Niese said. “I should’ve stayed away from it. He was looking out there, he wasn’t looking in.”
Marte hit his ninth homer, a three-run drive in the sixth, for a 7-1 lead. McCutchen was intentionally walked before Marte sent the first pitch he saw from Mets reliever Erik Goeddel over the left field fence.
“Pick your poison, that’s the way I look at it,” McCutchen said. “I guess they felt since Marte hadn’t been swinging the bat the past few games, they could get him out.”
The Pirates added a pair of insurance runs in the seventh on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly from Josh Harrison and Corey Hart’s RBI single.
Jared Hughes, Tony Watson and Arquimedes Caminero combined to allow one hit in three scoreless innings to close out the win.
Mets: New York returns home to begin a six-game homestand against Philadelphia and Miami. Mets RHP Bartolo Colon (6-3, 4.85 ERA) starts the Memorial Day contest a day after turning 42 against Philadelphia RHP Severino Gonzalez (2-1, 7.11).
Pirates: Pittsburgh continues its eight-game homestand as they play the Miami Marlins for the first time this season. Pirates RHP Charlie Morton (hip) makes his season debut against Miami RHP David Phelps (2-1, 3.21 ERA).
Mets: OF Juan Lagares missed the game with discomfort in his right armpit and elbow. … 1B Lucas Duda was out of the lineup with a tight right hamstring which he injured sliding Saturday.
Pirates: Morton will come off the 15-day disabled list Monday and make his season debut. He has been out while recovering from surgery on his right hip last September.