Lower-lever tickets were fetching $100 or more hours before the first pitch, and Liriano did not disappoint the largest Monday-night crowd (32,084) since the park opened in 2001.
The left-hander, whose path to stardom veered off track after having Tommy John surgery in 2007, retired the first 10 batters he faced and kept the best-hitting team in the National League on its heels while dropping his ERA to 2.16.
"Well he didn't throw a lot of balls and was pounding the zone pretty good," Matheny said. "Once you get into a negative count, you have to guard, and he did a nice job of expanding when he had to."
The Pirates took some of the pressure off Liriano early by teeing off on Westbrook yet again.
As ugly as his record against the Pirates is, it could have been even worse. Westbrook was touched for four runs in the first inning in his last start at PNC Park on April 16 only to have the game washed out by rain.
The weather couldn't save him this time. Neither could Westbrook's usually solid control.
Jose Tabata led off the bottom of the first with a walk and Westbrook drilled Neil Walker moments later. McCutchen followed with an RBI-single up the middle and Alvarez took the very next pitch and sent it into the first row of bleachers.
"It was a battle from pitch 1 -- and it showed early on," Westbrook said. "It's not really how you draw it up with a walk and a hit batsmen and a single and a homer. Put us in a bad spot against a good team and against a guy who's throwing the ball really well. Not how you want to start off."
Westbrook survived a bases-loaded jam in the second to stay close, but by then Liriano had all the support he would need. His only real mistake came in the sixth, when pinch-hitter Tony Cruz led off with a triple and scored on Matt Carpenter's single up the middle. A strikeout and a double play followed, and the Pirates broke it open in the seventh against relievers Marc Rzepczynski and Fernando Salas.