PITTSBURGH - PITTSBURGH (AP) — The San Francisco Giants had their chances, but just couldn't take advantage of their opportunities.
The Giants left 11 runners on base in a 5-2 loss to the Pirates on Sunday night, finishing off a road trip in which they lost five of seven to St. Louis and Pittsburgh.
"A week ago we were getting all the big hits we needed and this road trip we've had a hard time getting them in," manager Bruce Bochy said. "That's the difference in the game."
San Francisco finished 2 for 8 with runners in scoring position and struggled cashing in against Pittsburgh starter Francisco Liriano and four relievers.
The Giants put men on base in each of the first seven innings but didn't push a run across until the fifth with some help from Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez. Alvarez failed to communicate with second baseman Neil Walker on a pop up that eventually led to a run when Marlon Byrd's ground ball went through his legs.
The Giants pulled within 3-2 in the sixth shortly after a sharp grounder by Gregor Blanco skittered under Alvarez's glove for his 18th error of the season.
"We were getting some help too but we couldn't take advantage of it," Bochy said. "It's kind of been the story of this road trip. A lot of close games."
Still, Pittsburgh escaped. McCutchen tucked his 19th home run of year just over the fence in left to make it 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth. Pirates reliever Joakim Soria worked out of a two-on, two-out jam in the seventh and when Alvarez hit his fifth homer in the last two weeks to push the lead to 5-2, Pittsburgh was on its way to improving to 19-4 against the NL West while the Giants fell 1 1/2 games behind the Dodgers for the top spot in the division.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle touted his team's ability to keep playing, namely Alvarez who drove in two runs alongside his two errors.
"You're not always going to come out on the other side of it," Hurdle said. "That being said you've got to play forward, you've got to rip out the rearview mirror and play forward."
Francisco Liriano (9-6) gave up two unearned runs and struck out five in 5 1/3 eventful innings to win his fifth straight decision. The Pirates are 10-0 in Liriano's last 10 starts dating back to June 26.
Ryan Vogelsong (9-9) allowed three runs in the first and failed to make it out of the fourth.
"I didn't make good pitches when I needed to," Vogelsong said. "I just couldn't find a good place to start anything to keep it in the strike zone."
Vogelsong spent six largely forgettable seasons with the Pirates from 2001-06 and PNC Park continues to give him trouble. He came in 6-13 with a 6.06 ERA at his old home, numbers that didn't improve during another rocky outing. Struggling with the command didn't help. The Pirates touched Vogelsong for three runs in the first thanks to a bases-loaded walk to Jung Ho Kang, an RBI-single by Neil Walker and a sacrifice fly by Alvarez.
"I missed a couple pitches in the first inning that if I make it kind of changes the inning," Vogelsong said. "(I) just didn't execute very well tonight."
Matt Duffy had three hits for the Giants but his teammates went 5 for 33.
Giants: OF Angel Pagan isn't quite ready to return from a stay on the disabled list due to tendinitis in his right knee. Pagan is eligible to come off the DL on Tuesday but instead will play a couple of games for Triple-A Sacramento before the team makes a decision.
Pirates: SS Jordy Mercer returned six weeks after he went to the DL with a sprained left knee. The Pirates went 20-10 with Mercer out of the lineup thanks in large part to a late-summer surge by Kang. Mercer entered as a defensive replacement in the seventh when Kang shifted to third to replace Aramis Ramirez.
Giants: San Francisco is off Monday and begins a three-game series at AT&T Park against the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday. The Giants trail the Cubs by six games in the race for the second NL wild card spot. Matt Cain (2-3, 5.66 ERA) faces Chicago's Jake Arrieta (15-6, 2.30) in the opener. Cain is 0-2 with a 7.01 ERA in his last five starts.
Pirates: Pittsburgh heads to Miami for a four-game set against the Marlins on Monday. J.A. Happ will make his fourth start for the Pirates after arriving in a trade with Seattle last month.