AJ Burnett is the fan favorite and Gerrit Cole has gotten lots of press, but it's pretty easy to argue that the Pirates' best pitcher by a pretty wide margin in 2013 has been Francisco Liriano. These sorts of things are volatile, particularly when Francisco Liriano is involved, but he's got his groundball rate up to 48.8% this year, which is generally smack in between where he was in his best and worst years with the Twins. He's using those groundballs and PNC Park's big left field to keep his home run rate way down (just two allowed in 60 2/3 innings), and he's managed to find some control and cut down on his walks without sacrificing strikeouts. He's been really excellent for the Pirates this year.
This is good news, because the Pirates have lost two of three and could use a big weekend in Chicago against the lowly Cubs to get back on track. Even the best teams lose two of three from time to time; they just don't do it all that often. With Liriano starting this afternoon and AJ Burnett coming back on Sunday, the Pirates have a good chance to win some games on this weekend and make the series against the Phillies a distant memory.
First pitch this afternoon is at 4:05. Jeff Samardzija starts for the Cubs.