Rockies-Pirates Preview

The Pittsburgh Pirates faced a journeyman starter and a rookie to end their previous series against one of the NL's worst clubs, and that's exactly what they'll see in the first two games against another bottom feeder.

Neither can look much worse than he did in his last outing for the Colorado Rockies.

First up hoping to rebound is top prospect Jon Gray, who looked good in his only other road start but could find success a bit harder to come by against Francisco Liriano and the Pirates on Friday night.

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Pittsburgh (77-49) jumped all over Miami veteran Chris Narveson in his first start in three years in Wednesday's 7-2 victory, then used Pedro Alvarez's fourth-inning homer off rookie Justin Nicolino to take three of four with Thursday's 2-1 win.

''He has as much raw power as anybody in the game, except for maybe (Giancarlo Stanton),'' Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Alvarez, who has six homers and a 1.150 OPS since Aug. 11.

The Pirates should be salivating at the prospect of facing Gray (0-0, 5.94 ERA) and Chris Rusin after that duo managed to surrender 17 runs and 20 hits while lasting a combined 3 2-3 innings a week ago at home against the New York Mets. The rookie gave up seven of those runs, recording only five outs in last Friday's 14-9 loss.

"(His location) wasn't all that bad and our park was playing crazy, like it used to in the old days," said Rockies manager Walt Weiss. "I'm not too worried about Jonny Gray. He's handled himself very well so far. He's a lot more confident than I saw him in spring training. He's a lot more convicted to what he does. He's in a good place."

He was great in his first major league start away from Denver. The only hit Gray allowed in six innings against the Mets on Aug. 10 was a solo home run.

Considering the way the Pirates have hit when Liriano (9-6, 3.23) has been on the mound for the past two months, Gray might be waiting another five days to pick up his first victory. Pittsburgh has won Liriano's last 10 starts, giving him an average of 7.13 runs of support.

Should the Pirates win this one, it will mark the seventh time in franchise history they've won 11 straight games behind an individual starter. They won 12 consecutive A.J. Burnett starts in 2012, their longest run since a franchise-record 14 straight Dock Ellis outings in 1971.

''Every five days I try to do the best I can and win some ballgames,'' Liriano said after allowing two unearned runs over 5 1-3 innings in a 5-2 win over San Francisco on Sunday. ''I just try to put some zeroes on the board.''

The left-hander hasn't been doing much of that lately, posting a 4.67 ERA and 1.78 WHIP in his last five starts, but he did hold the Rockies (51-74) to just an unearned run over five while striking out eight at PNC on July 18, 2014.

Nolan Arenado is 3 for 6 against Liriano but Carlos Gonzalez is 0 for 7 with five strikeouts. Gonzalez is hitting .194 against lefties this season while Arenado is batting .184 on the road since July 1.

Colorado has lost five straight in Pittsburgh, but it'll head into this series with a chance to do something it hasn't accomplished in the second half. The Rockies won their final two games in Atlanta this week, giving them a chance for their first three-game winning streak since sweeping the Braves in four right before the All-Star break.

Colorado is 6-1 against Atlanta since July 9 and 10-24 against everyone else.