Cards, Pirates battle for NL Central supremacy in the Steel City

By
Updated: August 30, 2013

(Sports Network) – The last time the St. Louis Cardinals visited Pittsburgh,
they arrived in first place but ended up leaving town trailing the Pirates in
the NL Central.

The Cardinals are again set to visit their rivals with a division lead at
stake and hope to get off on a better foot Friday night in the opener of a
three-game series versus the Pirates.

St. Louis is clinging to a one-game lead over Pittsburgh for first place in
the division, with the Cincinnati Reds 3 1/2 games off the pace. It is similar
to when the Cardinals last visited the Pirates, a five-game series that began
in late July.

The Pirates took the first four games of that set, including a sweep of a
doubleheader on July 30, before getting routed 13-0 in the finale on Aug. 1.
Still, Pittsburgh turned a 1 1/2-game deficit into a 1 1/2-game lead for first
place.

However, the Pirates have lost four of five and 12 of their last 19, a span
that includes losing two of three in St. Louis from Aug. 13-15. The Cardinals
have countered by winning 12 of their last 17.

St. Louis began a stretch of 13 straight against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh by
winning two of three over the Reds. The Cardinals lost Wednesday’s finale
10-0, but the Pirates failed to take advantage on Thursday by losing a 4-0
decision to Milwaukee in the rubber match of a three-game set.

The Pirates look to grab the early advantage in this series behind Francisco
Liriano, who has won both of his starts versus the Cardinals this year. That
includes a one-run complete game in St. Louis on Aug. 14.

The left-hander is 3-2 in five starts this month, allowing one run over 23
innings in the three victories. However, Liriano has yielded 14 runs and 21
hits in the two setbacks and is coming off a 6-3 loss at San Francisco on
Saturday. He was charged with four runs on nine hits and two walks over four
innings.

“Inconsistent command. At the end of the day, that’s what it was,” Pirates
manager Clint Hurdle said about Liriano.

The 29-year-old Liriano is 14-6 with a 2.74 earned run average in 20 starts
this season, matching his season high for wins in a season set in 2010 with
Minnesota. The first-year Buc is 7-3 with a 1.88 ERA in 10 starts this season
versus the NL Central.

Countering for the Cardinals is 22-year-old Shelby Miller, who is winless in
three starts against the Pirates this season. He has posted a 4.08 ERA in
losing all three outings.

He has been solid versus the rest of the league, going 12-8 with a 2.90 ERA in
25 starts this year. Miller won for the first time in four starts on Saturday
with a 6-2 decision over Atlanta, giving up just one run and three hits over
seven innings while striking out six without a walk.

“My main goal tonight was to just keep my focus the entire game and just
attack the zone,” said Miller. “That’s kind of what I’ve been lacking a little
bit.”

Since July, the righty has not allowed more than three earned runs in an
outing.

The Pirates are 8-5 versus the Cardinals this season.