After an impressive showing from their star rookie, the Pittsburgh Pirates are set to give the ball to one of the hottest pitchers in the game.
Drafted No. 1 overall in 2011, Gerrit Cole shined over 6 1-3 innings in his big league debut Tuesday as Pittsburgh (38-26) cruised to an 8-2 victory. Pedro Alvarez came up big with a two-run homer and three RBIs and Starling Marte also went deep.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Cole said. “The guys played great defense and we scored a lot runs. … It’s tough to draw it up any better than this.”
Pittsburgh tries to keep things going behind Liriano (4-2, 1.75 ERA), who’s allowed one or zero runs in all but one of his six outings while striking out 47 over 36 innings.
“For the most part, his best pitches have been offspeed,” catcher Russell Martin told MLB’s official website. “But he’s used the fastball in normally breaking-ball situations. He’s been pitching backwards, and it’s been effective. Because hitters want to hit the fastball for the most part, anyway, and when you’ve got 94 (mph) they’ve got to honor that. So being able to throw offspeed pitches for strikes has worked for him.”
The left-hander issued a season-worst five walks Friday but managed to limit the damage, scattering two hits and striking out eight over seven innings during a 2-0 road win over the Chicago Cubs.
“He’s done this to everybody,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “When he’s right and he has his velocity, he’s basically in the CC Sabathia category where he has great velocity but really doesn’t throw his fastball that much. He’s got great command of his changeup and slider. He’s one of those guys where it’s very, very difficult if he’s on with his offspeed stuff - it’s going to be a tough day.”
Marco Scutaro and Gregor Blanco are the only Giants with any experience against Liriano, going a combined 1 for 14 with six strikeouts. Scutaro, though, exited Tuesday’s game after being hit by a pitch on his left hand and could sit this one out.
Hitting a major league-best .410 since April 29, Scutaro’s absence could prove especially costly with Pablo Sandoval sidelined. Sandoval, who leads the team with 37 RBIs, was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday due to a strained left foot.
The Giants (33-30) have been outscored 70-39 in dropping nine of 12 on the road. They now turn to Barry Zito (4-4, 4.06), who gave up four runs over six innings last Wednesday in a 4-0 loss to Toronto. The left-hander could have difficulty regrouping on the road, where he’s 0-3 with a 10.19 ERA.
Zito is 2-0 over his last three starts against Pittsburgh despite a 4.50 ERA. He’s had his way with Brandon Inge (3 for 26), Martin (6 for 36 with 10 strikeouts) and Clint Barmes (5 for 29), though Barmes has taken him deep twice. Andrew McCutchen is 7 for 16 with a double and triple in their matchups.
Alvarez, who’s 0 for 3 against Zito, is hitting .274 with eight homers and 19 RBIs in his last 19 games to raise his season average to .216.