Pirates hand Liriano ball, try to solve Athletics

After their talented young rookie failed to secure Pittsburgh's first ever victory over Oakland, the Pirates turn to Francisco Liriano on Wednesday night in the finale of a three-game series with the Athletics.

The slumping Pirates remained winless all-time against the A's with Tuesday's 2-1 setback, falling to 0-11 against the franchise.

Gerrit Cole, coming off the first loss of his career, was solid over seven innings, giving up just five hits. However, one was a two-run homer to Brandon Moss in the fourth inning that turned out to be the difference as Pittsburgh managed just three hits in the game.

Pedro Alvarez hit a solo homer in the second frame for the Pirates, who have matched a season high by losing four straight. They now sit 1 1/2 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for first place in the NL Central.

"When you don't score runs everything is always magnified in the game of baseball," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of his team's recent struggles.

In addition to Moss, Dan Straily also shined for the A's, giving up two hits over 6 1/3 frames to win his fifth straight decision.

"He was terrific again," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said of Straily. "Mixing his pitches well, actually threw some curveballs today that he normally doesn't throw and just had them off balance."

Closer Grand Balfour moved to a perfect 24-for-24 in save chances this season with a two-strikeout ninth, extending his franchise record of 42 straight saves dating back to last season.

Oakland has won three straight and 10 of its past 13. The Athletics lead the Texas Rangers by a half-game for the top spot in the AL West.

The A's figure to draw a challenge tonight from Liriano, who eyes a fourth straight victory and is coming off the second complete game of his career.

Liriano won for the fifth time in six starts when he went the distance against the Chicago Cubs on Friday, yielding two runs on four hits and four walks with seven strikeouts. He moved to 8-3 with a 2.20 earned run average in 11 starts this season.

"This was an exclamation point to what he's been doing," Hurdle said. "Just a very impressive outing."

Still, the left-hander's second career complete game was less impressive than his first, a no-hitter at the Chicago White Sox on May 3, 2011 when he was with the Minnesota Twins.

Liriano, 29, is 3-4 in his career against Oakland, posting a 4.59 ERA in 14 games (12 starts).

For the A's, Tommy Milone takes the hill after nearly posting his second career complete game last time out.

The southpaw took a two-hit shutout into the ninth inning of last Friday's victory in Kansas City, but recorded just one out in the frame before getting lifted. Milone ended up getting charged with three runs on six hits in the 6-3 decision, striking out four without a walk.

In winning his second straight start, the 26-year-old moved above .500 through 18 starts at 8-7 with a 4.11 ERA. He faces Pittsburgh for the first time.