The Pittsburgh Pirates own the best home record in the NL, and their opening day starter is finally starting to pitch well at PNC Park.
Francisco Liriano looks to help the Pirates to a 12th win in 14 tries Pittsburgh on Saturday night against the San Diego Padres.Pittsburgh (62-53) is 37-22 at home -- a big reason why the team is second in the NL Central, 1 1/2 games behind Milwaukee.Superb pitching has been key to the Pirates' success as host, compiling a 2.19 ERA while going 11-2 over the past 13 games. Starters Jeff Locke, Edinson Volquez and Vance Worley have combined to allow four runs in 21 innings during a three-game winning streak.Worley tossed a gem in Friday's opener, yielding a run over seven innings in a 2-1 win."We're all here to step up," Worley said. "It's a team game, and if one guy goes down, it's up to somebody else to come in and step up."Now, it's Liriano's turn.Liriano (3-7, 3.91 ERA) is 2-0 with a 1.44 ERA and 29 strikeouts over 25 innings in four starts since the All-Star break after winning once in his first 15 games. He's also 1-0 while allowing two runs -- one earned -- in 12 innings over his past two home games after compiling a 5.98 ERA in his first eight at PNC.Liriano was solid again at Arizona on Sunday, permitting two runs with six strikeouts in six innings of a 3-2 loss in 10.The left-hander wasn't very sharp at San Diego on June 4, when he issued a season high-tying six walks while giving up three runs in five innings of a 3-2 loss.While the Pirates are thriving at home, the venue hasn't made much of a difference for Josh Harrison. The outfielder is on a career-high 12-game hitting streak, matching Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker for the longest by a Pirate this year.Harrison's run includes a .462 average with five homers, six doubles, seven RBIs and 16 runs. He's also 10 for 17 with two doubles and two triples in four meetings this season with San Diego, going 3 for 3 with a triple and a run Friday.The Padres (52-62) have dropped five six on the road, thanks in large part to a 4.64 ERA from the rotation.Turning to Eric Stults (4-13, 4.94) isn't likely to help since he's 0-9 with a 5.78 ERA in 12 away outings this year. He yielded two runs in five innings of a 5-2 win at Pittsburgh in his only career meeting with the Pirates on Sept. 17.The lefty wasn't even close to being that effective in his most recent road outing, surrendering six runs in six innings of an 8-3 defeat at Atlanta on July 27. He was much better at home against the Braves five days later, yielding an unearned run and two hits in 6 1/3 innings of a 10-1 victory.Stults is aiming for back-to-back overall wins for the first time this year.San Diego's Everth Cabrera has gone 11 for 26 (.423) in six games this month. The shortstop doubled on one of his two hits Friday, while also scoring a run to give him a .357 average (10 for 28) over his last seven meetings with Pittsburgh.
Since returning from the disabled list on July 13, Francisco Liriano's average slider velocity has been 1.2 mph greater than before his DL stint. He's allowed a .098 batting average with the pitch since his return, compared with .229 before.