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St. Louis at Pittsburgh

Venue: PNC Park
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There are some legitimate questions about the final three slots in the Pittsburgh Pirates' rotation as September nears, but there's little doubt about the effectiveness of Clint Hurdle's top two starters.

A night after Francisco Liriano gave the Pirates a share of the NL Central's top spot, A.J. Burnett looks to continue his home dominance of the St. Louis Cardinals and lift his club to the outright lead Saturday night.

Charlie Morton's rotation spot was in jeopardy as recently as Aug. 1, Gerrit Cole is being given extra rest as his innings mount and Jeff Locke has pitched so poorly after his All-Star first half that he's been sent to Double-A while his next start is skipped.

But there's no uncertainty at the top of the Pirates' rotation. Liriano allowed two hits over eight innings Friday in beating the Cardinals (78-56) for the third time in the past 33 days as Pittsburgh (78-56) pulled even atop the NL Central with a 5-0 win.

Garrett Jones broke out of a 1-for-29 slump by going 3 for 4 with a homer and four RBIs.

"Big game, big series," Jones said. "I made some adjustments and took it into the game and I felt good. I felt aggressive and strong and it was nice to be able to contribute to the win."

Burnett (6-9, 3.18 ERA) takes the ball next, and though he can't match Liriano's 1.21 ERA at PNC Park, he hasn't been far behind. The right-hander has posted a 2.01 ERA in his last nine home starts, a stretch in which he's held the Cardinals to one run and four hits over 14 innings while striking out 17.

Burnett is 2-1 with a 1.35 ERA in four home outings against St. Louis since joining the Pirates.

Hurdle certainly seems to like the 1-2 punch at the top of his rotation.

"I just like the way we're going about our business, throwing our best two guys back to back," Hurdle told the team's official website. "... When they are on their game, they can be a force."

This will be Burnett's first home appearance since Aug. 4 after going 1-2 with a 5.55 ERA in his four straight road starts, including a 6-5, 12-inning loss at Busch Stadium on Aug. 15. He pitched four clean innings and was staked to a 4-0 lead before being charged with five runs and failing to survive the fifth.

His mound opponent Saturday will be the same as it was earlier this month. Lance Lynn (13-8, 4.02) gave up four fifth-inning runs that day and wound up lasting 5 1-3, the beginning of a rocky three-start stretch in which the right-hander has posted a 5.89 ERA.

Three of the four runs Lynn allowed over his seven innings in Sunday's 5-2 loss to Atlanta came in the first two innings.

"Hopefully for me, this was a building (block) going down the stretch," Lynn said. "I've got some starts coming up where I've got to be really good.

"And I plan on being really good."

Lynn hasn't been good often on the road, going 2-4 with a 6.06 ERA over his last eight starts outside of St. Louis. He's 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in three starts at PNC Park, however.

Lynn has certainly had the number of two of the Pirates' best hitters. Andrew McCutchen is 4 for 23 with eight strikeouts versus Lynn, while Neil Walker is 3 for 17.

Allen Craig and David Freese are each 1 for 9 against Burnett, but Matt Carpenter is 8 for 18 with three extra-base hits.

Carpenter, who along with McCutchen is tied for the major league lead with 51 multi-hit games, is 5 for 42 (.119) in his career in Pittsburgh.

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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Probable Starters

Lance Lynn, RHP
2013 stats
168.0 Innings Pitched 153.0
13-8 Wins-Losses 6-9
4.02 Earned Run Average 3.18
62 Walks 56
158 Strikeouts 166
102 Pitches Per Start 102
Career vs. opponent
49.2 Innings Pitched 95.0
4-1 Wins-Losses 7-5
4.17 Earned Run Average 3.98

A.J. Burnett, RHP
Standings
TeamStandingsWLPct.GBL 10Strk
St. Louis2nd NL Central6958.5431 ½ 7-3 L 1
Pittsburgh3rd NL Central6662.51653-7 W 2
BATTER VS. PITCHER (Career)
vs A.J. Burnett
PlayerABHHRBBSOAVG
Kozma42021.500
Carpenter188021.444
Holliday216138.286
Beltran3911229.282
Jay154015.267
 
BATTER VS. PITCHER (Career)
vs Lance Lynn
PlayerABHHRBBSOAVG
Harrison110001.000
Mercer32000.667
Lambo21000.500
Jones196046.316
Tabata103001.300
 

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Injuries
St. Louis
PlayerInjury
M. EllisOblique
J. GarciaShoulder
Y. MolinaThumb
M. WachaShoulder
Pittsburgh
PlayerInjury
C. BarmesGroin
C. MortonHernia
S. PimentelAnkle
 
Series Game Log
DateatResult/TimeWinnerLoser
Apr 11MILMIL 4-2Peralta Liriano 
Apr 12MILMIL 3-2Henderson Melancon 
Apr 13MILMIL 4-1Lohse Morton 
Apr 17PITPIT 11-2Volquez Wooten 
Apr 18PITMIL 5-3Lohse Morton 
Apr 19PITMIL 8-7Henderson Grilli 
Apr 20PITMIL 3-2Duke Gomez 
May 13MILMIL 5-2Estrada Cole 
May 14MILPIT 4-1Watson Rodriguez 
May 15MILMIL 4-3Wooten Melancon 
Jun 6PITPIT 15-5Cumpton Lohse 
Jun 7PITMIL 9-3Garza Volquez 
Jun 8PITMIL 1-0Gallardo Locke 
Aug 22MILPIT 8-3Locke Gallardo 
Aug 23MIL 7:10 PM EDT  
Aug 24MIL 2:10 PM EDT  
Sep 19PIT 7:05 PM EDT  
Sep 20PIT 7:05 PM EDT  
Sep 21PIT 1:35 PM EDT