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PIT@CHC: Liriano on big-time win, defensive play

The A's scored just four runs in the first two games of their series against the Pirates, but they won both by margins of 2-1.

A rainless rain delay -- a specialty at Pittsburgh's PNC Park -- could not stop the A's from beating the National League Central contenders and winning their fifth straight series to maintain a half-game advantage over the Rangers.

A major source of Pittsburgh's offensive futility has been its bench, which has struggled greatly the past few weeks. Brandon Inge and Michael McKenry are 3-for-29 and 3-for-32, respectively, since June 1, while McKenry has thrown out just five of the 40 runners who have attempted to steal against him. Clint Barmes, meanwhile, lost his job as the team's starting shortstop to Jordy Mercer a few weeks back.

And all while the Pirates look to prove they are finally in it for the long haul this season, sparking talks as to whether a move will be made by the Trade Deadline. Having lost six of their last eight, talks of yet another collapse are growing louder in Pittsburgh.

"We have some tough decisions to make as the organization continues to grow," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "You're continually, daily, weighing the best move for today. Sometimes, you do have to weigh the best move for tomorrow and try to keep those in balance and competitive balance and in smart balance."

Looking to aid the Pirates in the meantime is Francisco Liriano, who will get the start in Wednesday's series finale against the A's. Liriano might have been an All-Star had he been healthy since the start of the season. He is 8-3 while taking a decision in all 11 of his starts, posting a 2.20 ERA.

Trying to secure the sweep for Oakland will be Tommy Milone, who is 2-2 with a 5.23 ERA and .262 opponents batting average over his last five starts. He is 3-0 despite a 5.16 ERA in four Interleague starts this year and is 2-for-7 with two runs, one RBI and one strikeout as a hitter.

Pirates: Walker on DL with possible oblique injury
The Pirates on Tuesday placed second baseman Neil Walker on the 15-day disabled list with right side soreness retroactive to Sunday. The team called up Josh Harrison, who could provide bench help heading into and coming out of the All-Star break.

Manager Clint Hurdle on Tuesday afternoon implied that the second baseman's injury, previously generically placed on his right side, actually involved the oblique.

"Neil's had some conversations with other guys who've had something like this, trying to get a grip on what's best for the oblique," Hurdle said.

Walker, who detected the discomfort in his right side midway through Saturday's game against the Cubs in Chicago, has tried dry swings with the bat, having more difficulty from the left side than from the right. Harrison was optioned a week ago to Indianapolis but was able to be recalled prior to the routine 10-day waiting period because he was replacing a player on the DL.

In Walker's absence, the Bucs turned to a double-play combination of Clint Barmes and Jordy Mercer for Tuesday's game. Mercer, ordinarily the regular shortstop, made his first start at second base since June 4.

Athletics: Health useful for Reddick's improved at-bats
There was more than one reason why Josh Reddick was promoted to the second spot of the lineup Tuesday, but his improved at-bats were, without question, part of the equation.

Manager Bob Melvin also wanted to provide his lineup a bit of flexibility come late-inning double-switch situations in a National League park.

Reddick entered the day having reached base safely via hit or walk in a career-high 16 straight games. In that time he batted .268, upping his season average to .222, with a .323 on-base percentage. His batting average sat at .189 a month ago.

He reached base via walk in the first inning of Tuesday's 2-1 win over the Pirates.

"I'm getting more lucky I guess," Reddick said recently. "I'm not so much an unlucky hitter anymore. The hits are finding holes now, and when they're over the fence, they can't catch them."

Aside from luck, Reddick also has health on his side. That was not the case for parts of April and most of May, when he was dealing with a sprained right wrist. He did not hit the disabled list until May 8, ultimately returning May 31, but it was an issue well before then.

Worth noting
• The A's are 11-0 in their limited history against the Pirates.

• Dan Straily, who earned the win Tuesday, will be optioned once again to Triple-A Sacramento to make room for Sonny Gray, who will pitch out of the bullpen.

• Andrew McCutchen's hitting streak ended at 10 Tuesday, when he went 0-for-3. Over the course of the streak, McCutchen had raised his average from .287 to .303 by going 16-for-38.

• Prior to Brandon Moss' two-run home run Tuesday, Pirates pitchers had allowed one home run in their last 100 innings at PNC Park. Comments