Pirates' Burnett toes rubber versus Rockies

A.J. Burnett hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of his last five starts. Unfortunately, the Pirates right-hander doesn't have a win in that span.

Burnett gets back on the mound Sunday afternoon when Pittsburgh plays the Colorado Rockies in the rubber match of a three-game set at PNC Park.

The Pirates will leave this weekend set in first place in the NL Central, possibly as much as 2 1/2 games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals if results break their way Sunday.

Burnett didn't get a decision in his last start, a seven-inning performance against St. Louis in the opener of a doubleheader Tuesday. The Pirates won that game, 2-1, in 11 innings. Burnett has lost five of his last six decisions since capturing back-to-back starts April 27 and May 3.

Burnett is 2-3 with a 2.97 ERA in five career starts against the Rockies.

Juan Nicasio will try to bounce back from a horrendous start Tuesday at Atlanta when he allowed 10 hits and eight runs in four innings of an 11-3 defeat. The right-hander has made one career start against the Pirates. On April 25, 2012, he didn't get a decision after giving up one run in 6 2/3 innings.

On Saturday, Francisco Liriano fired seven shutout innings in the Pirates' 5-2 win. Liriano (12-4) fanned six and surrendered just two hits to go with five walks for Pittsburgh, which has won five of its last seven games.

The southpaw, who is victorious in seven of his last eight starts, saw his ERA dwindle to 2.02. He was 6-12 with a 5.34 ERA for the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox last season.

"I'm a little surprised too. I'm trying not to think about it too much and just trying to come in and play every five days. Hopefully it will continue the way we've been playing and having fun," Liriano said.

Jose Tabata was a double short of the cycle. He tallied a solo home run and a pair of runs scored. Mark Melancon tossed a 1-2-3 ninth to record his sixth save of the year in the triumph.

Jorge De La Rosa (10-6) surrendered three runs on six hits and two walks over four innings for the Rockies, who have dropped five of their last six games.

"He labored a little bit, threw a lot of pitches," Colorado manager Walt Weiss said. "He didn't have his best command, but kept us in the game."

The Rockies and Pirates are meeting for the first time since Pittsburgh took four of six matchups a season ago.