Liriano dominates, Pirates beat Cubs 4-0 for 8th win in row

CHICAGO (AP) — Francisco Liriano pitched four-hit ball into the eighth inning Saturday, and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the playoff-bound Chicago Cubs 4-0 for their eighth straight victory.

Liriano (12-7) struck out nine and walked three over 7 2-3 innings. Jordy Mercer had a three-run homer off Jason Hammel (9-7), and the Pirates continued to roll.

They lead Chicago by 51/2 games for the top wild card with a chance to complete a weekend sweep on Sunday. The Pirates then open a three-game series Monday against St. Louis, the team they trailed by three games for the NL Central lead when the day began.

Despite the loss, the Cubs had plenty to celebrate Saturday. They secured their first playoff appearance since 2008 Friday night when Oakland beat San Francisco, after enduring five straight losing seasons and a major overhaul under president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.