Strong pitching matchup on tap between Pirates-Cubs

Jeff Samardzija has dominated the Pirates over his career. A.J. Burnett has never lost at Wrigley Field.

Those two pitchers clash this afternoon when the Chicago Cubs entertain Pittsburgh in the middle test of a three-game series.

Although both pitchers have struggled to a 3-6 mark this season, both have promising histories against the teams they're facing today. Pirates righty Burnett is 6-2 with a 3.21 ERA in nine career starts against the Cubs. That includes a 4-0 ledger in five starts at Wrigley Field. Samardzija is 4-1 with a 0.98 ERA and one complete game in 15 outings (four starts) against the Pirates.

Burnett hasn't received much run support lately. The Pirates have scored two runs or less in five of the last six games he's started. Burnett is 0-4 in that span and hasn't won since May 3 versus Washington.

Samardzija logged 11 strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings in a no-decision against Arizona in his most recent start.

Samardzija and Burnett faced each other on Opening Day this year with the Cubs coming out on top, 3-1, at PNC Park. The starters combined for 19 strikeouts with Samardzija allowing only two hits over eight innings.

On Friday, Francisco Liriano spun seven shutout innings to help the Pirates win, 2-0.

Despite walking five batters, Liriano (4-2) allowed just two hits while striking out eight to snap a three-game losing streak for the Buccos. The lefty has pitched superb since missing the first six weeks of the season with a fractured forearm, allowing one or no runs in five of his six outings.

Russell Martin finished 2-for-3 with an RBI, ending a four-game hitless drought. Travis Snider drove in the other run for the Pirates, who had lost five of their previous six contests.

"It was one of those days when you're missing your spots. I was missing with everything," Liriano admitted. "But you have to compete to the end. And (Martin) called a great game."

Travis Wood (5-4) pitched well in defeat, yielding just one run on four hits with six strikeouts over six frames, but the Cubs lost for the fourth time in five games.

"He was consistent, pounding the zone," Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney said of Wood. "He keeps them off balance. When he's pitching it's fun to play behind him because he's going to throw a lot of strikes. Unfortunately, we couldn't get a couple of runs across for him."

Garrett Jones had a pinch-hit single in the ninth inning for the Pirates. He has a nine-game hitting streak at Wrigley Field. The Tinley Park, Ill. resident is hitting .367 (11-for-30) during his current hitting streak at the ballpark.

The Pirates have won five of seven from the Cubs this season.