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Pirates power past struggling Zito, SF
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PITTSBURGH (AP) — Barry Zito doesn’t believe his quality pitches just magically disappear whenever the San Francisco Giants venture away from AT&T Park.

It only looks that way.

The veteran left-hander continued to get shelled on the road, allowing eight runs in 4 2/3 innings of a 12-8 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night.

Zito (4-5) remains winless away from home (0-4) and had his road ERA balloon to 11.28.

“It probably doesn’t look like it but I think it’s just a coincidence,” Zito said. “At home, I’ve caught some breaks and kept stuff down in the zone and I haven’t on the road. I’ve felt pretty good in some of these starts out on the road but I just haven’t been able to get people out.”

There’s a lot of that going around for the Giants at the moment. The defending World Series champions are just 12-20 on the road this season, including 7-19 against teams not named the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Joaquin Arias knocked in three runs for the Giants and Hunter Pence doubled twice but San Francisco couldn’t keep pace on a night the Pirates set season highs in runs and hits (18).

San Francisco bench coach Ron Wotus filled in for manager Bruce Bochy, who was suspended one game after reliever George Kontos threw at Pittsburgh’s Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen on Tuesday night.

Kontos, optioned to Triple-A earlier in the day, will serve his suspension whenever he’s recalled.

Wotus remains as baffled by Zito’s home and road splits as Zito is 4-1 with a 1.94 ERA at one of baseball’s more pitcher friendly parks but ineffective elsewhere.

“He labored but he kept at them for us and gave us as much as he could,” Wotus said. “His command wasn’t on and he left a lot of pitches up and you’ll always get hurt when you do that against big-league hitters.”

Zito’s biggest problems came against the top of the Pittsburgh lineup. Starling Marte, Jordy Mercer and Andrew McCutchen went 8 for 9 against Zito, leading a three-run rally in the third and a four-run burst in the fifth that eventually chased Zito.

“I felt pretty good but left too many fastballs up in the zone,” Zito said. “If you’re not throwing the fastball down in the zone, you’re going to struggle.”

Marte finished with a career-high four hits, scored four times and stole two bases. Neil Walker and Alex Presley homered for Pittsburgh while Mercer, McCutchen and Gaby Sanchez had three hits each.

Francisco Liriano (5-2) survived six erratic innings to pick up the win.

A night after Pittsburgh lit up San Francisco in an 8-2 win in support of rookie pitcher Gerrit Cole, the Pirates kept it going.

McCutchen hit a two-run double in the third as the Pirates took a 4-1 lead. The Giants responded briefly to tie the game on a two-run double by Arias in the top of the fifth.

It didn’t stay knotted long. Marte and Mercer led off the bottom of the inning with consecutive singles. McCutchen struck out and Sanchez walked to load the bases.

Russell Martin then hit a liner to first baseman Brandon Belt that first base umpire Tim McClellan ruled a ground ball. Belt hesitated for a moment, wiping out the chance for a double play and allowing Marte to race home.

“It’s just one of those crazy plays that unfortunately went against us,” Belt said.

Pedro Alvarez chased Zito for good with a double off the wall in right. Walker greeted reliever Jose Mijares with a two-run single and the Pirates were in control.

Pittsburgh’s lead grew to 10-4 after Presley’s pinch-hit homer and an RBI double by Sanchez.

San Francisco pulled within 11-8 after Buster Posey’s two-run single off Tony Watson in the eighth but Sanchez doubled in McCutchen in the bottom of the inning. Closer Jason Grilli worked a perfect ninth in a rare non-save situation.

Wotus saw positive signs in San Francisco’s late push.

“I was really pleased with the offense and the way we kept coming back and got the winning run to the plate a couple of times,” Wotus said. “They prevailed but we at least kept battling and we had a nice little breakout on offense.”

Liriano lacked the firepower of his past two starts, when he combined for 19 strikeouts. The left-hander struck out just two and walked three while tying his season high with four runs allowed.

NOTES: San Francisco 2B Tony Abreu went 3 for 5 in his first start of the season. Abreu started in place of Marco Scutaro, who is out indefinitely after taking a pitch off the pinky finger of his left hand on Tuesday ... Bochy said injured 3B Pablo Sandoval had a “hop in his step” the day after being placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained tendon in his left foot. Sandoval was hitting .289 at the time of the injury. ... Pittsburgh RHP Charlie Morton makes his first start since having Tommy John surgery a year ago on Thursday when he starts in the series finale. Hurdle indicated Morton won’t have much time to get his feet set with starters Wandy Rodriguez and Jeanmar Gomez on the mend from forearm tightness. Matt Cain (4-3, 5.09) starts for the Giants.