MLB

Diamondbacks-Pirates Preview

Francisco Liriano hasn't had many bouts of wildness this season, and until recently only the front-runner for the NL Cy Young Award had allowed fewer hits per nine innings.

Lately, he's been all over the place.

It hasn't much mattered to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who will try to win a ninth straight Liriano start Tuesday night behind what they hope is a much better performance from their lineup than in the opener against the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks.

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Liriano (8-6, 3.19 ERA) has allowed his fewest walks per nine innings since 2010 at 3.19, and prior to his July 29 start at Minnesota he had given up fewer hits per nine (6.12) than anyone but Zack Greinke.

The basepaths have been crowded in his last three outings, though, as the left-hander has surrendered 23 hits in 14 2-3 innings, and he issued four walks Thursday at St. Louis. But Liriano settled down after a two-run first inning and held the Cardinals to one over the next five in a 10-5 win.

"I tried too hard (early), wasn't executing pitches, walking guys," Liriano told MLB's official website. "After, I calmed myself down and started to make pitches. I still overthrew at times; hopefully, things will get better soon."

They turned out well April 26 in Phoenix, though Liriano certainly tried to make things more complicated. He limited the Diamondbacks (58-59) to two hits over 6 1-3 innings but walked six in an 8-0 win, giving him a 1.46 ERA in two starts against Arizona since joining the Pirates.

Pittsburgh (69-47) has given Liriano 21 runs of support in his last three outings and came into Monday's opener averaging an NL-high five since the All-Star break, yet Pedro Alvarez's homer was the only offense it could produce in a 4-1 loss.

Arizona is putting up 5.06 runs per game in August, just behind the Cubs for the NL's highest average.

''That's a good offensive club,'' Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. ''We made some mistakes over the plate. They were able to put the barrel on some balls early.''

Jeremy Hellickson turned in a surprisingly effective outing Monday, and now the Diamondbacks turn to Chase Anderson (5-5, 4.31) for his first road start since the break.

The right-hander spent half of the past month on the disabled list with a triceps injury and came back with seven scoreless innings against Cincinnati on Aug. 7. But he allowed five runs in five innings of Wednesday's 7-6 loss to Philadelphia, giving him a 7.41 ERA in his last seven starts.

"He just didn't have very good stuff," manager Chip Hale said. "One of the things we really like about our starting pitching is when we score runs, they go back out and shut the door, and that just didn't happen today. That's something he's going to have to work on."

Anderson faced the Pirates twice last season at home, allowing four runs in 9 2-3 innings.

One of the two homers he gave up came off the bat of Gregory Polanco, who went 0 for 5 on Monday after posting a 1.067 OPS in a torrid first half of August.

That's still slightly behind another outfielder in this series who's been the NL's hottest hitter this month. Arizona's David Peralta had two more hits Monday and is batting .453 with a 1.196 OPS in 18 games dating to July 28, driving in 21 runs in that span.

Peralta is 8 for 16 with five RBIs in four career games at PNC Park.