Francisco Liriano gave the Pittsburgh Pirates' rotation a boost in his 2013 debut last weekend. On Thursday he tries to hurl his new club to a series victory in the finale of a four-game series with the rival Milwaukee Brewers.
Signed as a free agent in February, Liriano was not able to make his debut with Pittsburgh until last Saturday as he was recovering from a broken right arm suffered in December. He was worth the wait, holding the New York Mets to a run on six hits and two walks over 5 1/3 innings while striking out nine in a 11-2 victory.
"I tried not to get too excited," Liriano said. "I didn't want to try to do too much."
The 29-year-old lefty has faced the Brewers eight times in his career, all but one of those starts, and is 4-2 against them with a 3.76 earned run average.
Getting the call for the Brewers will be 25-year-old Hiram Burgos, who looks to rebound off of what he called "the worst outing of my career."
Burgos has allowed just six runs while going 1-0 over his first three starts, but was hammered for 12 runs -- 10 earned -- on 11 hits and three walks in just three innings of a 13-7 setback to Cincinnati last Saturday. His ERA jumped from 3.00 to 6.86.
The right-hander was pitching for the first time in 10 days, a no-decision versus Pittsburgh in which he allowed a pair of solo homers to Pedro Alvarez and Michael McKenry in seven innings of work. Burgos also fanned a season-best six batters.
The Brewers have won just twice in 13 games this month, taking the opener of this series on Monday before consecutive setbacks. They are still 10-3 in the last 13 meetings in this series, but are in danger of losing a series to Pittsburgh for the first time since June 1-3 of last year.
The Pirates won a 3-1 contest on Wednesday in a pitcher's duel between Pittsburgh's Wandy Rodriguez and Yovani Gallardo of Milwaukee. Rodriguez picked up the win, striking out five and yielding just one run on a solo homer by Rickie Weeks in the seventh inning. That home run came after Pittsburgh had plated a pair of runs in the sixth to snap a scoreless deadlock.
"He battled from start to finish," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Rodriguez. "The only tarnish mark was the first-pitch change-up to Weeks. It's the start we needed. He pitched a little bit better than their guy."
Gallardo had allowed just a single and two walks in his first five innings of work before allowing a leadoff double to Starling Marte in the sixth. Andrew McCutchen and Gaby Sanchez later worked one-out walks to load the bases and Neil Walker lined a hit to center to plate two runs.
That was enough to get Pittsburgh its fifth victory in six games and leave Milwaukee looking for answers.
"When Wandy got in trouble, we didn't do the job offensively," Milwaukee outfielder Carlos Gomez said. "He gave the break where we can change the game, and we didn't do it."
The Brewers are 1-5 on a 10-game road trip that ends this weekend in St. Louis, while the Pirates are set to play the second leg of a 10-game homestand on Friday versus Houston.