Pirates-Rangers Preview

The Associated Press

Francisco Liriano was hit hard in his last outing and now must try to regroup against the team with baseball's best record against left-handed starters.

He'll be opposed by Martin Perez, who is enjoying the longest win streak by a Texas Rangers starter in eight seasons.

Liriano handed Perez his first big league defeat the last time these southpaws met heading into Tuesday night's matchup between the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates and Rangers.

Liriano (15-7, 2.98 ERA) owns the most victories by a Pirates left-hander since Zane Smith had 16 and John Smiley finished with 20 in 1991. He failed in a bid to add to his career-high total last Wednesday, allowing seven runs over three innings in a 9-3 defeat at Milwaukee.

"I was overthrowing sometimes, too, trying to get more sink on the ball," he told the Pirates' official website. "If your location is good, there's a pretty good chance you'll get better results."

The Rangers (81-62) are 28-16 against left-handers, but Liriano is 4-1 with a 3.19 ERA in six starts against them. He has posted a 1.66 ERA in winning the last three.

Liriano gave up one run over 6 2-3 innings in a 5-1 victory at Texas on July 6, 2012, with Minnesota. Perez (9-3, 3.41) suffered the loss, yielding four runs in six innings in his second career start.

It's clear that Perez is a much better pitcher now. He improved to 6-0 with a 2.76 ERA in his last six outings by surrendering one run in seven innings in last Tuesday's 5-1 victory at Oakland.

The six-start win streak is the longest by a Ranger since Kenny Rogers won eight straight April 27-June 5, 2005.

"He's grown leaps and bounds really," manager Ron Washington said. "It's maturity. The experience he had last year up here helped him tremendously. He realized he can pitch up here and he just goes out there and pitches."

Perez, who owns a 2.20 ERA at home compared to 4.04 on the road this year, finished with a 5.45 ERA in 12 appearances in 2012.

"I just tried to learn last year and this year too," he said. "Every day you learn something new."

The only Pittsburgh hitter Perez has faced is Justin Morneau (1 for 3).

Liriano has more extensive experience against the Rangers, enjoying success against Elvis Andrus (0 for 11) and Ian Kinsler (2 for 12).

These starters will be hard-pressed to fare better than the ones that opened this three-game set Monday. Gerrit Cole outdueled Yu Darvish as Pittsburgh (82-61) ended a four-game slide with a 1-0 victory that clinched the franchise's first winning record since 1992.

"As big as this win is for the city of Pittsburgh and the organization, and as big a deal as the media is going to make out of it, we still have a lot of baseball to play," said second baseman Neil Walker, a Pittsburgh native. "We've got a lot of games we need to win, we're in a tight race.''

The Pirates moved within one game of first-place St. Louis in the NL Central and one game in front of Cincinnati in the race for home-field advantage in a possible wild-card game.

The Rangers have dropped six of eight to fall two games behind AL West leader Oakland.

Texas left fielder Jim Adduci exited in Monday's fifth inning, when he sustained a right biceps strain while striking out.

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