Twins eye rebound effort against Pirates

( - The Minnesota Twins pay a visit to PNC Park on Tuesday night to begin a brief two-game interleague set with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Minnesota is in the thick of the competitive American League Central Division at 21-17, three games back of the first-place Kansas City Royals. The Twins just took two of three from the Tampa Bay Rays at home over the weekend, although they are coming off Sunday's 11-3 loss.

They were out-hit by a 19-6 margin in that one, although it was still a 3-1 ballgame entering the sixth inning when starter Kyle Gibson exited. However, Minnesota's bullpen then proceeded to give up eight runs over the final four innings, including a five-run sixth.

"I would've liked to get a few more innings under my belt," said Gibson, who had posted a 0.96 ERA over his previous four outings. "Five innings leaves a lot of pressure on the 'pen with four innings against a pretty tough team."

Pittsburgh followed up a recent four-game win streak with four straight losses, although the team did end that skid with a 3-0 decision over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Sunday.

That outcome brought an end to Chicago's six-game win streak as Pirates starter A.J. Burnett pitched seven shutout innings and allowed only three hits to lower his ERA to 1.38. The veteran right-hander did issue five walks, although he also struck out seven.

Burnett is the first Pirates pitcher since before record-keeping began in 1900 to yield two runs or less in each of his first eight starts.

"Things are going good, plays are being made, guys are playing hard," Burnett said. "It's a funny game, because you can also go out there, make your pitch, and not get the results you want."

Neil Walker and Starling Marte each posted RBI doubles to spark Pittsburgh's offense in Sunday's win.

Starting Tuesday's opener for Pittsburgh is Francisco Liriano. For the first time as a Pirate, Liriano faces the organization that he pitched for between 2005-12.

The southpaw sports a 2.96 ERA through seven starts this season but has only one win to his credit. Things won't get any easier here, considering the Twins have hit .292 as a team against lefties. Liriano is coming off back-to-back losses, although he did post a quality start at Philadelphia on Wednesday as he went seven innings and allowed three earned runs.

For Minnesota, Ricky Nolasco brings a 6.38 ERA into Tuesday's opener but eyes his fourth straight victory since getting roughed up by Detroit in his season debut. The right-hander's most recent outing was also his best to this point, as he yielded only a pair of unearned runs on four hits while striking out seven and walking three in 5 1/3 innings.

These clubs last faced each other during the 2012 season.