The Pittsburgh Pirates hope that Francisco Liriano's career resurgence continues on Saturday when they resume their weekend set with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Liriano, who finished with an ERA over 5.00 in 2011 and 2012 with the Twins and White Sox, has appeared to be rejuvenated by the National League, as he sits with a 5-3 record and a 2.44 ERA while striking out 55 batters in 48 innings.
"I think I worked hard in the offseason, location-wise with my fastball and everything is working so far," Liriano said of his improvement this season. "Pitching is all about location so when you can locate your pitches, you have better results."
The southpaw was the hard-luck loser in his latest outing, yielding two earned runs over six innings with six strikeouts against the Reds on June 17. Liriano had a two-start winning streak halted and is 2-3 in the past five outings.
The Angels have gotten the better of Liriano over the course of his eight-year career, as he's just 1-4 with a 6.69 ERA against them.
For Los Angeles, Jerome Williams will get the call filling in for Jason Vargas, who was placed on the 15-day DL on Friday due to a blood clot found in his left armpit. Williams has been an effective piece to the Angels pitching staff both as a starter and a reliever this season, going 5-2 with a 3.14 in 18 appearances (seven starts).
Williams most recently pitched three innings in relief in a loss to the Yankees on June 16, allowing just two hits and one run.
The 32-year-old right-hander has been especially strong at home this season, sporting a 2.63 ERA while opposing batters have hit just .190 against him.
On Friday, Pittsburgh jumped on the Angels with a three-run second inning and held on for a 5-2 triumph.
Pedro Alvarez got the scoring started with a solo home run, his 17th of the season. Jordy Mercer also belted a homer in the second inning and finished 3- for-4 with two RBI.
Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones and Alvarez also had two hits apiece.
Gerrit Cole continued the impressive start to his career, winning his third straight start since making his Major League debut on June 11. The first- overall pick of the 2011 MLB Draft allowed just four hits, one walk and two earned runs over 6 1/3 innings of work while striking out five.
After blowing his first save of the season on Wednesday, Jason Grilli bounced back with a perfect ninth inning for his 26th save of the year, tying him with Baltimore's Jim Johnson for tops in the majors.
Jered Weaver's disappointing season continued in the loss, as he allowed nine hits and four earned runs in six innings. It marks the fourth time in seven starts this season he has allowed four runs or more.
Both of the Angels' runs came in the seventh inning, with Albert Pujols belting his 13th homer of the season and Albert Callaspo chipping in an RBI single.
The Pirates have won three of their last four games and remain in the driver's seat for one of the National League Wildcard spots, while the Angels slipped 10 games back of the Athletics in the AL West.