Pirates-Giants Preview

Though Pittsburgh’s latest defeat dropped it into a tie for

first in the NL Central, the Pirates should feel confident they can

bounce back and conclude an already successful California trip on a

positive note.

The Pirates look to regroup and take this four-game set from the

San Francisco Giants on Sunday.

After Pittsburgh (76-53) opened the series with a pair of wins

to improve to 4-1 on this seven-game trip through San Diego and San

Francisco, Francisco Liriano allowed four first-inning runs en

route to Saturday’s 6-3 loss.

That defeat coupled with St. Louis’ 6-2 victory over Atlanta

left the Pirates and Cardinals tied atop the division. However,

Pittsburgh has played too well to allow one loss to linger.

“People were worried about us being a .500 ballclub and the next

thing you know we’re neck and neck going into the end of the

season,” center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. “The expectations,

we exceeded those. Now we the opportunity to do even more.”

A.J. Burnett (6-8, 3.09 ERA) will try to win consecutive starts

for the first time since early May when he takes the mound for the

Pirates. The right-hander gave up 11 runs and 16 hits over 10

innings in his previous two starts before holding San Diego to a

solo homer and three other hits over seven innings Tuesday in an

8-1 win.

“He had pitches to work with,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He

was able to reboot (Tuesday). Very good outing for him.”

Burnett is 6-2 with a 1.95 ERA in eight starts against the

Giants (57-72), but the two runs he gave up in 6 1-3 innings to

beat them last year came in his first meeting versus San Francisco

since 2007.

Jose Tabata had three hits and backup catcher Tony Sanchez added

his first career homer Saturday as Pittsburgh dropped to 6-9 since

winning five in a row.

Tabata’s nine hits in his last 25 road at-bats have come via

three three-hit games.

Teammate Pedro Alvarez is 3 for 9 with three doubles in the

series, but 2 for 10 with a double and six strikeouts versus San

Francisco starter Ryan Vogelsong (2-4, 6.29).

The right-hander has a 3.78 ERA while not factoring in the

decisions of three starts since spending more than two months on

the disabled list with a broken hand. His outing Tuesday against

Boston was the best of that stretch, as he allowed two runs in

seven innings of a 3-2 win.

“The way he was throwing was the way he threw last year,”

teammate Marco Scutaro told the Giants of Vogelsong, who won a

career-high 14 games in 2012 and three in the postseason. “He was

painting the corners and mixing his pitches. He was very good.”

The ex-Pirate is 1-3 with a 4.50 ERA against his former

team.

He won’t have to face Pittsburgh leadoff hitter Starling Marte,

who was placed on the disabled list Saturday with a bruised right

hand. Marte was batting .282 with 11 home runs, 33 RBIs and 35

stolen bases.

Buster Posey had three hits and Pablo Sandoval drove in two runs

Saturday as the Giants snapped a three-game skid to win for the

second time in seven contests.

Posey is 9 for 21 with six RBIs in his last five games versus

Pittsburgh.