Pirates-Cardinals Preview

The Associated Press

The scuffling Pittsburgh Pirates need stopper Francisco Liriano to come through for them. Likewise, Liriano needs the Pirates' bats to come through for him.

Both parties will attempt to turn things around Saturday in St. Louis as the Cardinals try to secure a series win.

The Pirates (9-15) have scored four runs in the last four games and are in danger of losing five straight for the first time since Sept. 18-22, 2012. After Friday's 1-0 loss, they're batting .160 during the skid.

"We knew there would be challenges coming into the season," said manager Clint Hurdle, whose team has won twice in 11 games. "We're getting to face our fair share of them in April. You just keep mounting up and you keep playing."

The lack of offense has been a season-long problem for Liriano (0-3, 4.22 ERA), who is receiving a run-support average of 1.97, though the 16-game winner from a season ago hasn't quite dazzled on the mound.

After a strong first start, Liriano has struggled some in his last four, going 0-3 with a 5.19 ERA. That stretch started with a home loss to St. Louis (13-11) on April 5 that gave him his first career defeat to the Cardinals. Including last year's division series, he went 4-0 with a 1.46 ERA in his first five matchups.

Some of the Cardinals' more recent acquisitions have had success against Liriano. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta is 13 for 39 with a pair of home runs while Mark Ellis is 8 for 13.

In his last start, the left-hander allowed five runs in seven innings of Monday's 6-5 home victory over Cincinnati.

"Shutdown innings is what everybody talks about," Hurdle told the team's official website. "Frankie is our go-to guy. He leads the staff with experience and with the way he works."

He'll be opposed by Tyler Lyons, who will be making his second start as a fill-in for the injured Joe Kelly. The left-hander yielded two runs in six innings of Monday's 2-0 loss to the New York Mets in his season debut.

Lyons wasn't thrilled with his overall performance, mostly because of a costly sixth-inning throwing error.

"Overall, it was OK," Lyons told the team's official website. "But it is tougher to swallow when you do a couple of things that kind of beat yourself."

Lyons figures to make at least three starts after making eight and four relief appearances a season ago. He started against Pittsburgh on July 30 and allowed four runs and eight hits in six innings of a 6-0 loss.

The Cardinals haven't been much better than the Pirates at the plate lately with nine runs in the past six games.

The difference Friday was a 3-for-3 night out of left fielder Matt Holliday, who had an RBI double in the first inning.

Manager Mike Matheny would like to see his pitchers get more to work with.

"You kind of hate to keep doing that to these guys, having to be perfect," Matheny said. "The bullpen did a terrific job."

Cardinals relievers have a 1.38 ERA while holding opponents to a .133 average in the last five games.

Andrew McCutchen has been the lone bright spot for the Pirates lately, going 9 for 16 with three solo home runs in the last five contests.

Peralta went 2 for 4 on Friday after going 0 for 20 in his previous six games.

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