The Pittsburgh Pirates have a good chance at getting back on track with Francisco Liriano set to take the mound Friday in the opener of a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
The Pirates will turn to the left-hander after losing two of three at home to the Philadelphia Phillies following a season-high nine-game winning streak.
Liriano has won two straight and four of five starts and the Pirates are 7-3 when he pitches this season. He previously took the hill in last Saturday's 2-1 win versus Milwaukee and hurled six innings of one-run ball, striking out six and walking just three batters. Liriano has allowed two runs or less in all but two of his outings this season and is 7-3 with a 2.23 ERA.
The southpaw is 2-0 with no ERA against the Cubs in 2013, spanning 14 innings. In three career starts against Chicago, Liriano is 2-1 with a 1.83 ERA.
Pittsburgh was hoping its young hurler Gerrit Cole could remain unbeaten and pitch the club to a series win Thursday, but he dropped to 4-1 after yielding three runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings.
"I thought he pitched well," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said of Cole. "He's a 22-year-old young man. He's still learning, continuing to grow. He's fun to watch."
Andrew McCutchen had two RBI and Starling Marte collected two hits and two runs scored in defeat. Pittsburgh still has the best record in baseball at 52-32.
The Pirates will put their six-game road winning streak on the line and are still two games ahead of St. Louis for the NL Central lead.
Chicago is back at Wrigley Field following a nine-game road trip (5-4) and just lost two of three against the Oakland Athletics.
In a 1-0 loss Thursday at the Coliseum, the A's scored the only run of the game in the seventh inning on a passed ball. Derek Norris charged home for what proved to be the game-winning run and Travis Wood's six shutout innings with five K's were wasted. Wood allowed only three hits and walked one.
"It was a shame, six shutout innings and three hits," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Wood's performance. "He pitched another great ball game."
The Cubs have lost each of Wood's last six starts.
Starlin Castro and Alfonso Soriano each had a hit in the loss.
Hoping to get the Cubs back in the win column Friday will be hard-throwing right-hander Jeff Samardzija. He is 2-0 in his past four outings and did not record a decision in last Saturday's 5-3 win at Seattle, where he delivered seven solid innings of two-run ball.
Samardzija is 5-7 in 17 starts to go along with a 3.34 earned run average and is 1-2 with a 2.14 ERA in three starts against the Pirates this season. He has faced Pittsburgh 16 times (5 starts) in his career and owns a 4-2 mark with a superb 1.56 ERA in that time.
The Cubs, though, are 3-6 against Pittsburgh this season.