It has been almost a month since the Pittsburgh Pirates found themselves out of first place in the NL Central. They'll try to avoid falling into that spot on Sunday afternoon in the finale of a four-game series with the San Francisco Giants.
The Pirates took the first two games of this series before a 6-3 loss in last night's encounter. That dropped Pittsburgh into a tie with St. Louis for first place in the division after the Cardinals beat the Atlanta Braves for their 10th victory in 13 games since Aug. 11.
Pittsburgh, which had held sole possession of first place since July 30, is 6-7 over that same stretch.
The Pirates were undone by a rough first inning out of starter Francisco Liriano, who gave up four runs in the frame. He did not allow another run the rest of the way, but lasted just four innings.
"Inconsistent command. At the end of the day, that's what it was," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said about Liriano.
Pablo Sandoval drove in a pair of runs and Buster Posey had three hits and an RBI for the Giants, who had lost five of six coming in.
"We haven't done that in a while, especially here at home, get some early runs," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy.
Tim Lincecum gave up three runs on three hits with four walks and eight strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings to pick up the win.
The Giants shoot for the series split behind Ryan Vogelsong, who makes his fourth start since returning from a broken hand suffered on May 20.
The 36-year-old righty has not logged a decision since his return in early August, giving up seven runs over 16 2/3 innings. He last pitched in Tuesday's 3-2 victory over Boston, logging seven innings of two-run ball.
Vogelsong is 2-4 with a 6.29 earned run average in 12 starts this season and will face the Pirates for the fifth time in his career. He is 1-3 with a 4.50 ERA against the club in which he pitched for between parts of 2001-06.
The Pirates counter with A.J. Burnett, who is seeking two straight winning starts for the first time since April 27-May 3.
Burnett allowed 10 earned runs over 10 total innings in a pair of starts prior to a win at San Diego on Tuesday. He gave up just one run on four hits and a walk in seven innings of work, while striking out seven.
It marked the 16th time in 23 starts this year that Burnett allowed one run or fewer and he continues to enjoy the effort of his teammates.
"I had guys diving left and right behind me today and swinging the bat," the 36-year-old Burnett said. "It's just fun to see everyone in this room contribute. That's what's going on right now. I'm glad I was a part of it tonight."
The right-hander is 6-8 with a 3.09 ERA on the year and holds a lifetime record of 6-2 with a 1.95 ERA in eight meetings with the Giants.
Pittsburgh took two of three from the Giants earlier in the year.