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Sun, Sep 15, 2013 - 1:35 PM ET
 

Cubs-Pirates Preview

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The Pittsburgh Pirates regained a share of the NL Central lead in part by stifling the last-place Chicago Cubs.

Francisco Liriano has done the same in all three of his three matchups this season.

The left-hander will try to give the Pirates a boost in the division race with another strong outing at home against the Cubs in Sunday's series finale at PNC Park.

After dropping the second in a four-game series to the Cubs on Friday, Pittsburgh (86-62) bounced back with a 2-1 victory. The Pirates kept Chicago scoreless after the first inning, and former Cub Marlon Byrd provided a tiebreaking solo homer in the seventh.

That win, combined with St. Louis' 4-1 defeat to Seattle, knotted up a competitive NL Central race. Cincinnati is 2 1/2 games back after beating Milwaukee on Saturday.

"It's a blast," said Byrd, acquired from the New York Mets on Aug. 27. "To come here where we're selling games out, the whole town is excited, you have the whole thing of wiping out the streak of 20 (consecutive) losing seasons - it's just been amazing experience so far. What will be more amazing, though, is playing in October."

Liriano (16-7, 2.92 ERA) will try to aid Pittsburgh by winning his seventh straight start at home - where he's 8-1 with a 1.21 ERA and carries a 16-inning scoreless streak into this game. He gave up one run over six frames in a 5-4 victory at Texas on Tuesday.

"Everything feels good," Liriano told the team's website. "Everything feels great and I feel a hundred percent, and I'm just trying to get ready every start and trying to go deep in every game."

Liriano, who has conceded only eight runs - four coming in one start - while limiting opponents to a .185 batting average over 59 2-3 innings at Pittsburgh, is seeking to become the first Pirates pitcher with more than 16 wins since John Smiley went 20-8 in 1991.

He would appear to have a good chance to accomplish that feat since he's 3-0 with a 0.78 ERA in three starts against Chicago (63-85) this season. Liriano pitched a four-hitter in his most recent matchup, a 6-2 victory July 5, and he outdueled Travis Wood (9-11, 3.05) in a 2-0 victory June 7.

He also stifled the Cubs on two hits while striking out nine in seven innings of a 1-0 win May 22.

Wood is 1-1 with a 0.75 ERA in his two starts against Pittsburgh this season, allowing five hits in 12 innings. He's also coming off a superb outing in Cincinnati on Monday.

The left-hander struck out seven and scattered six hits in a 2-0 victory, his second in three starts.

"The luck he's had this year, it's just gratifying to see him get a win at any time," manager Dale Sveum said. "He's had some tough luck this year."

Andrew McCutchen went hitless Saturday but is batting .400 in his last 39 games. He's hit .357 in his past 24 contests against the Cubs, but is 1 for 16 lifetime against Wood.

McCutchen's 1-for-23 performance against Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo is the only worse showing against any pitcher he's faced at least 15 times.

Chicago's Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney are a combined 1 for 26 against Liriano, with Castro's double the lone hit.

Tagged: Cubs, Pirates, Francisco Liriano, Travis Wood

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