While manager Clint Hurdle refused to blame a quick turnaround on his team’s sloppy play, he’s hoping Francisco Liriano can end struggles of a much longer length Tuesday night when the Pittsburgh Pirates continue their series versus the Cincinnati Reds.
Pittsburgh had its lead for the NL’s first wild card reduced to two games following its 3-1 loss Monday and the Chicago Cubs’ 9-0 rout of St. Louis. The Pirates – still 5 1/2 games out of first in the NL Central – looked sluggish early after beating the Cardinals on Sunday night, committing two of their season high-tying four errors during Cincinnati’s three-run second.
”We were able to get them the lineup last night, so those who were in knew they were in, and they’re minds could be fresh,” Hurdle said, paying no mind to his team’s 2 a.m. arrival to its Cincinnati hotel. ”If we defend the ball better, who knows what might’ve happened."
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Liriano (9-7, 3.40 ERA) may feel beating the Reds for the first time is something he’s "gotta do" considering he’s 0-5 with a 3.96 ERA in 10 lifetime starts against them since joining Pittsburgh (81-55) in 2013. The left-hander did not register a decision April 6 in his only start versus Cincinnati this season after yielding two runs in seven innings of a 5-2 loss.
Liriano has never found a comfort zone at Great American Ball Park, going 0-4 with a 4.86 ERA in six starts, and the Pirates have provided him only nine runs in those outings. Though he lost his last road start, Liriano is still 5-3 with a 2.67 ERA in 11 outings outside Pittsburgh.
Jay Bruce has only a solo homer in 18 lifetime at-bats versus Liriano, but the slugger enters this game with the spark of his milestone 1,000th hit – a single that capped a 13-pitch at-bat. He’s hitting .267 against the Pirates this year, but is 5 for 14 in the last four contests.
”I’ve been fortunate to be around long enough to get 1,000 hits,” said Bruce, who became the sixth player in club history with 1,000 hits and 200 homers. ”I’m fortunate to be able to do it with the Reds. It’s humbling to be mentioned with that group.”
Cincinnati (57-79) is seeking its first three-game win streak since July 28-30 and first three-game run at home since a season-high six in a row from June 7-19. The Reds may get a boost from the return of speedy outfielder Billy Hamilton, who completed a minor league rehab assignment and is expected to rejoin the team.
Despite being sidelined since Aug. 19 with a sprained right shoulder, Hamilton still leads the majors with 54 stolen bases. He’s swiped 16 in 17 attempts in 13 games against Pittsburgh this year and is a .214 hitter in 14 at-bats versus Liriano.
Reds rookie Raisel Iglesias (3-6, 3.81) is trying to end a run of tough luck that has left him 0-2 in his last four starts despite a 1.93 ERA. The Cuban right-hander was in line for a win Wednesday at Wrigley Field after holding Chicago to two runs in seven innings, but the bullpen squandered the lead before Cincinnati eventually won 7-4.
Iglesias’ lone start versus the Pirates was a 4-3 win Aug. 1 in which he lasted 6 2-3 innings and gave up two runs.