Armed with their longest winning streak since 2004, the Pittsburgh Pirates are making believers out of fans in the Steel City that their team can finally end their streak of futility.
The Pirates have endured 20 straight seasons of finishing under .500, but with a win on Saturday against the Milwaukee Brewers they can climb an amazing 20 games above the break even mark.
Pittsburgh enters the middle contest of this three-game series with a seven- game winning streak, the team's longest since capturing 10 straight June 26 - July 5, 2004.
Last night it was Gerrit Cole's to shine again as the rookie surrendered three runs on eight hits and three walks in six frames in a 10-3 final.
Francisco Liriano, who has won three of his last four starts, gets the ball tonight for the Pirates. The lefty limited the Angels to a run on seven hits over 6 2/3 innings in a 6-1 victory a week ago. He's 5-2 with a 3.50 ERA in nine games (8 starts) against the Brewers.
Donovan Hand makes his second major league start tonight for the Brewers. Hand, who has 10 appearances in his rookie campaign, pitched an inning of scoreless relief Wednesday against the Chicago Cubs. The right-hander's lone start came June 22 against Atlanta when he limited the Braves to a pair of hits in 4 2/3 scoreless frames.
Hand joined the Brewers on May 26 for the injured Jim Henderson as his contract was selected from Triple-A Nashville. His only appearance against the Pirates came that day in his big league debut when he gave up three hits and a run in two frames.
Andrew McCutchen finished 3-for-5 with a home run and three RBI for the Pirates in Friday's win. The Pirates scored seven times in the second inning after allowing three in the first.
Cole (4-0) became the first Pirates pitcher to win his first four starts since Nick Maddox in 1907.
"He was able to compete and complete the outing from our perspective," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Cole. "There was some improvement as the game went on and some awareness of what he needed to do."
Starling Marte and Neil Walker both had two runs batted in while Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin each had an RBI for the Pirates.
In his major league debut, Johnny Hellweg (0-1) was hoping for a start anything opposite of the one he had. He was dinged for seven runs -- five earned -- on six hits and two walks in just 1 2/3 innings of work.
"The first time through the lineup I was a little hesitant," said Hellweg. "The last few batters I faced I felt more comfortable."
Aramis Ramirez and Juan Francisco had an RBI apiece for the Brewers, who have lost three in a row.
The Pirates lead the season series, 7-4.