Francisco Liriano carries his unbeaten streak into a place he and the Pittsburgh Pirates have been beaten badly in the last decade.
Liriano hopes his current roll offsets his team’s struggles at Miller Park in the series finale against the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday night.
The Pirates (79-52) have won each of Liriano’s last 11 starts but have dropped three straight, including the first two of this series. Wednesday’s 9-4 loss moved their record to 19-64 at Miller Park since the start of 2006, and it put them on the cusp of their 16th sweep there during that span – which includes an MLB-worst .229 winning percentage.
The most recent loss held Pittsburgh six games behind NL Central-leading St. Louis and kept its wild-card lead at 4 1/2 over Chicago.
The Pirates are 7-20 on the road against NL Central teams. They head to St. Louis and Cincinnati following this series and visit the Cubs from Sept 25-27.
"We’re looking forward to it because it’s the one area that we haven’t done as well as we believe we should," manager Clint Hurdle told MLB’s official website. "But the numbers are what they are."
Liriano (9-6, 3.28 ERA) has had about as much luck winning at Miller Park as the Pirates the last five years. He won his first two starts there in 2006 and 2009 before going 0-4 with a 7.61 ERA in his last five.
But Pittsburgh has won all 11 Liriano starts since June 26, the longest streak by a Pirate lefty since Emil Yde’s 11-start run in 1925. The last Pittsburgh right-hander to reach double digits was A.J. Burnett with a streak of 12 in 2012.
Liriano is 5-0 with a 3.31 ERA during the stretch, benefiting from an NL-leading 6.89 run support average. Pittsburgh, though, has 18 hits and eight runs on its three-game skid.
Liriano is 6-5 with a 4.12 ERA in 13 starts against Milwaukee (57-75). He has lost three of his last four, the latest a 4-1 defeat June 9 in Pittsburgh in which he tossed a season high-tying eight innings and allowed three runs and five hits.
His Thursday counterpart won his major league debut in that game. Taylor Jungmann (8-5, 2.48) will try for Milwaukee’s fourth straight victory and his third win in as many tries against the Pirates.
The right-hander tossed seven innings and allowed one run to beat Liriano on June 9, and he finished with the same numbers in a 6-1 win over Pittsburgh on July 19 at Miller Park. The Pirates have eight hits against him and have struck out 10 times.
Jungmann wrapped two scoreless performances around a rough outing in his last three starts. After going 6 1-3 innings and striking out a season-best nine during a 6-1 win over Philadelphia on Aug. 16, he coughed up a season-high five runs in four innings in a 6-1 loss at Washington six days later.
He regrouped, though, by allowing three hits in six innings during a 5-0 win over the Reds on Friday.
”I think a bounce-back start is always big,” Jungmann said. ”It’s good for the psyche.”
Jungmann will face a red-hot Aramis Ramirez, who was traded from the Brewers to the Pirates on July 23. Ramirez homered in each of the series’ first two games and added an RBI double Wednesday. Ramirez, hitting .310 in his last 24 games, started his career with Pittsburgh in 1998 and will retire at the end of the season.
Milwaukee catcher Jonathan Lucroy extended his hitting streak to a career high-tying 10 games with two hits and three RBIs on Wednesday.