Twins-Pirates Preview

The Associated Press

The Pittsburgh Pirates may be known as one of the worst hitting teams in the major leagues, but they've been doing their best to rid themselves of that reputation lately.

Given how well Francisco Liriano has pitched since returning to the Minnesota Twins' starting rotation, he may be able to cool off their hot bats.

Pittsburgh looks to match a season high with its fourth straight win when it hosts struggling Minnesota on Wednesday night.

The Pirates' .230 batting average is among the worst in baseball, though it's an improvement from where the number stood just a few days ago. They've outscored opponents 25-9 during their three-game winning streak, beating Minnesota 7-2 on Tuesday in the series opener.

Pittsburgh had double-digit hits for the third straight game. In 341 games prior to their winning streak, the Pirates reached double digits in hits in three consecutive contests only once. They're 16-2 this season when getting at least 10 hits.

Andrew McCutchen hit a two-run homer Tuesday and is batting .406 over his last eight games for the Pirates (35-31), who won four straight in May and again earlier this month.

Pittsburgh will look to stay hot against Liriano, who has seemed to respond well following his demotion to the bullpen after going 0-5 with a 9.45 ERA in his first six outings.

Liriano (1-7, 6.24 ERA) allowed one hit - a three-run homer - over six innings in Minnesota's 5-3 loss to Milwaukee on Friday. He's 1-2 with a 3.04 ERA in four starts since returning to the rotation May 30 after five appearances out of the bullpen.

"Frankie threw the ball really well but just had that one bad inning," manager Ron Gardenhire said.

The left-hander is 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA in two career starts against the Pirates, who will counter with fellow left-hander Erik Bedard.

Bedard (4-7, 4.36), though, is coming off his worst outing in more than four years after he allowed seven runs and eight hits in 3 1-3 innings of a 12-6 loss at Baltimore on Thursday.

He hadn't allowed that many runs since giving up nine in a loss to the New York Yankees on May 23, 2008.

''They were hitting good pitches and they were hitting bad pitches. It was just one of those nights,'' he said.

Bedard, though, has been solid in recent years against the Twins, going 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three starts since 2009.

Justin Morneau is 11 for 27 (.407) with two homers and two doubles lifetime against Bedard, but he went 0 for 4 in Tuesday's loss and is 3 for 22 (.136) over his last five games.

The AL-worst Twins (26-40) have lost five of six, scoring three runs or fewer in four of those contests.

Joe Mauer, who is hitting .432 over his last 10 games, was held out of the lineup Tuesday to rest a bruised right quadriceps suffered Sunday against Milwaukee.

"I can't tell you how long it's going to last," Gardenhire said. "It's up to him and how he feels. He's doing all the work it takes to get back on the field right now; his body's just not letting him do it."

Pittsburgh's win Tuesday ended a four-game home skid versus the Twins, but it has lost eight of the last 11 overall meetings.

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