Francisco Liriano hasn’t been nearly as good as he was for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013, but manager Clint Hurdle is confident he’ll be back in the win column soon.
Pittsburgh looks to avenge a pair of earlier losses to the struggling Baltimore Orioles as Liriano takes the mound Tuesday night to open this two-game set at PNC Park.
Liriano had a career-high 16 wins and a 3.02 ERA before earning a victory in the wild-card game that advanced the Pirates to the NL division series in his first season with Pittsburgh.
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He’s gotten off to a slow start this season, going 0-3 with a 4.25 ERA in nine outings. The Pirates (18-25) have won each of Liriano’s last five starts, though, after he allowed one run and struck out seven over six innings of Pittsburgh’s 4-1 victory over Milwaukee on Wednesday.
The left-hander is winless in his last 12 regular-season starts since beating Texas on Sept. 10, though Hurdle is expecting that streak to end shortly.
"I expect the best is yet to come for Frank. That’s just what I believe," Hurdle told the team’s official website. "It’s the time of the year for him where he normally makes his move. The swing-and-miss, all the pitches were there with the command. The fastball command sets it all."
Liriano is 2-3 with a 4.21 ERA in seven starts against the Orioles, though he hasn’t faced them since 2012. Adam Jones is 4 for 13 with three homers off Liriano, and he’s hitting .345 with five homers and 11 RBIs during a 13-game hitting streak.
Jones went 2 for 5 with a three-run homer in Sunday’s 8-6 loss to Kansas City, as Baltimore (22-20) lost for the sixth time in eight games.
”We’ve just got to score a few more runs," Jones said. "We didn’t beat ourselves. We just got beat.”
The Orioles have won five straight meetings with the Pirates, including a doubleheader sweep May 1, winning 5-1 and 6-5 on catcher Matt Wieters’ homer in the 10th. Wieters hasn’t played since May 10 due to a strained right elbow and is on the disabled list.
Baltimore will send Miguel Gonzalez to the mound in this contest as he returns to the rotation.
Gonzalez (1-3, 4.76) has allowed three or fewer earned runs in his last six starts, but he pitched out of the bullpen in Wednesday’s 7-5 loss to Detroit and allowed two runs – one earned – in two innings.
The right-hander, 0-2 with a 6.86 ERA in four road starts, has never faced the Pirates, who had lost five of six and three straight before a 5-3 win in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader with the New York Yankees.
Starling Marte hit a two-run homer in the sixth, but he left in the seventh with hamstring tightness.
”I’ll be good for the next game,” Marte said.
Jordy Mercer had two hits, while Josh Harrison went 2 for 5 with a solo homer in the seventh and made a diving catch in the eighth to help the Pirates preserve the lead.
Harrison has two hits in each of his last three starts.
"He can surprise you," Hurdle said. "He does things with intent all the time."
Pittsburgh is beginning a six-game homestand at PNC Park, where it has won four of five.