Following a solid performance in his debut, Francisco Liriano faces a much tougher challenge in his second start since coming off the disabled list.
The veteran left-hander looks to win for the second time in as many outings and lead the Pirates to their sixth win in seven games Thursday night against the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park.The Brewers have been one of the best hitting teams against left-handers, though one Pittsburgh Pirates' southpaw has already given them fits in this series.Wandy Rodriguez limited the Brewers (16-22) to one run over seven innings to help Pittsburgh (23-17) to a 3-1 victory Wednesday."These are important moving forward for confidence," said second baseman Neil Walker, who delivered a two-run single. "But being at home here, we feel like it doesn't matter who we play, we need to take advantage of that home field advantage."The Pirates now hope to win three of four from the Brewers behind Liriano (1-0, 1.69 ERA), who has given up three runs and struck out 17 over 13 2/3 innings in two career starts at PNC Park.Liriano broke his right arm while slapping a door in his house on Dec. 25 and finally made his first start Saturday, striking out nine and allowing one run in 5 1/3 innings in an 11-2 win over the light-hitting Mets."He's pitched before and he's been good," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Good to have him in the fold now, for me it's -- three left-handers in the rotation, I like that a lot. Especially in the division we're in, the way we match up against the team."Liriano is 4-2 with a 3.86 ERA in seven career starts against the Brewers, who had hit .291 against left-handers before getting shut down by Rodriguez Wednesday.Ryan Braun (.438) and Carlos Gomez (.415) are among the top hitters in baseball against left-handed pitching, while Jean Segura is 17 for 46 (.370) with four homers and 10 RBIs when facing southpaws.Gomez has also hit Liriano hard, going 5 for 8 with two homers and a double in their matchups.The Brewers' starting rotation, though, has been the team's biggest problem, posting a 6.59 ERA during the team's 2-11 skid this month."Obviously we're struggling right now but we've got to get over it," said Wednesday's losing pitcher Yovani Gallardo. "We've got to work through it and turn it around as soon as possible."Hiram Burgos (1-1, 6.86) will try to get the rotation headed in the right direction as he looks to bounce back from a miserable performance.After allowing six runs and 13 hits in his first three starts, the rookie right-hander was tagged for 12 runs and 11 hits over three innings in a 13-7 loss at Cincinnati on Saturday."We tried to save our bullpen," Burgos said. "It was the worst outing of my career. The good thing about baseball is you have another game."The right-hander pitched well against the Pirates on May 1, striking out six and allowing two runs and four hits over seven innings before leaving without a decision in a 6-4 loss.Pedro Alvarez and Michael McKenry took Burgos deep in that contest, but they're a combined 0 for 11 in this series.Andrew McCutchen went 0 for 3 in Wednesday's win, leaving him 4 for 33 (.121) over the past eight home games against the Brewers.