He's also proving to be one of the major factors in the NL Central race.
Liriano will try to give the Pirates some breathing room atop the division by continuing his unexpected dominance Saturday night against the San Francisco Giants .
Liriano (14-5, 2.53 ERA) has already matched his career high in wins set in 2010 with Minnesota, and he's one shy of his total over the last two years with the Twins and Chicago White Sox.
Various injuries have derailed the left-hander's eight-year career, and he started 2013 recovering from a broken right arm.
Liriano has become Pittsburgh's most reliable starter, leading the team in wins while owning the lowest ERA of any member of the rotation. His stunning revival is a big reason why the Pirates (76-52) are one game ahead of second-place St. Louis in the division chase.
Still, Hurdle isn't concerned if Liriano is considered the staff's ace.
"I'm not big on labels. I just like to pencil his name in every fifth day," Hurdle said. "I'd never take it for granted and I hope nobody else does when you watch a man go out there and pitch like he does. I hope there's some appreciation. He continues to just be masterful."
Liriano has been just that while winning his last two starts. He tossed a four-hitter in a 5-1 win at St. Louis on Aug. 14, and followed it up five days later by striking out a season-high 13 in seven scoreless innings of a 3-1 victory at San Diego.
Liriano earned a 12-8 victory in his only career meeting with the Giants, allowing four runs in six innings June 12.
He'll now try to help the Pirates improve to 5-1 on this seven-game road trip after they won 3-1 on Friday thanks to Clint Barmes ' three-run homer in the seventh.
Pittsburgh took the opener of this four-game set 10-5 on Thursday.
Andrew McCutchen has four hits in this series, upping his major league-best average in August to .451. His recent staggering production may only continue since he's batting .475 with 10 RBIs and 12 runs during a 10-game hitting streak versus San Francisco.
The star center fielder has a .605 on-base percentage in his last eight games overall, but he's 2 for 14 with a double and a homer versus Saturday's starter, Tim Lincecum .
The Giants (56-72), who occupy the NL West basement, have dropped five of six at home while batting .219 and averaging 2.0 runs.
Buster Posey is struggling greatly at AT&T Park, mustering a .113 average and three RBIs over the past 17 games and going 1 for 6 in this series. The All-Star catcher went 0 for 3 with a strikeout versus Liriano on June 12.
A lack of support is nothing new to Lincecum (6-13, 4.53), who has been backed by one run or none in five of his six starts since the All-Star break. The right-hander is 1-4 with a 5.40 ERA in that stretch after tossing his first career no-hitter on July 13.
Lincecum has surrendered 11 runs over 11 innings in losing his last two starts.
He's 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in a pair of starts against the Pirates the past two seasons, but both were in Pittsburgh. This is his first home meeting with them since tossing a four-hitter in a win July 27, 2009.
|August 19, 2013||Starling Marte||Day-to-Day||Right hand contusion|
|August 11, 2013||Starling Marte||Day-to-Day||Left game - left hand|
|July 28, 2013||Travis Snider||15-Day DL||Left big toe discomfort|
|July 28, 2013||Michael McKenry||60-Day DL||Left knee surgery - out for season|
|July 23, 2013||Jason Grilli||15-Day DL||Strained right forearm|
|July 07, 2013||Neil Walker||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|San Francisco Giants|
|August 23, 2013||Matt Cain||15-Day DL||Right forearm contusion|
|August 22, 2013||Matt Cain||Day-to-Day||Left game - right arm|
|August 22, 2013||Andres Torres||15-Day DL||Strained left Achilles|
|August 20, 2013||Pablo Sandoval||Day-to-Day||Sore back|
|August 17, 2013||Chad Gaudin||15-Day DL||Carpal tunnel syndrome|
|August 15, 2013||Sandy Rosario||Day-to-Day||Bruised sternum|
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Francisco Liriano didn't make a lot of consistent pitches in the strike zone. The few times when the Pirates left-hander did find his spots, the results were just as frustrating.
So much for chasing history.
Liriano lasted just four innings in his bid to become the first Pirates southpaw in more than 20 years with 15 wins, and the San Francisco Giants made their former farmhand pay for his lack of control in a 6-3 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday night.
"The whole night was a battle for me," said Liriano, who pitched with runners on base in every inning. "I was getting deep in counts, 3-2 counts a lot. Every time I made some good pitches they fouled them off or found a way to put them in play."
Nearly all of the damage off Liriano (14-6) came in the first when the Giants batted around and scored four times.
Liriano, who had allowed only one run over his previous 16 innings, gave up three straight hits to open the inning, including Buster Posey 's broken-bat RBI single. Brett Pill followed with a check swing infield single that drove in Joaquin Arias and made it 2-0.
After Posey scored on Pablo Sandoval 's groundout, Gregor Blanco added an RBI single to give the Giants a 4-0 lead.
"Just inconsistent command," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He had to battle. It was a street fight for four innings. He didn't have it tonight. The rhythm was inconsistent and the command was inconsistent."
The Giants chased Liriano after the fourth but added on against the Pirates bullpen. Hector Sanchez was hit by a pitch with one out in the fifth and scored on a wild pitch by reliever Jared Hughes , making it 5-1.
Even when things went right for the Pirates, there was a twist.
Tony Sanchez hit his first career home run for Pittsburgh but the team was unable to retrieve the milestone ball. Fans in the outfield bleachers at AT&T Park threw a ball back onto the field but it was not one used by major league baseball.
The loss dropped the Pirates into a first-place tie with St. Louis in the NL Central with 33 games left in the regular season.
"People were worried about us being a .500 ballclub and the next thing you know we're neck and neck going into the end of the season," center fielder Andrew McCutchen . "The expectations, we exceeded those. Now we the opportunity to do even more."
Posey had three hits and Sandoval drove in two runs to back Tim Lincecum 's uneven outing.
Lincecum (7-13) pitched into the sixth inning after two rocky starts for his first win in more than two weeks. The former two-time NL Cy Young winner walked four but struck out eight and pitched out of trouble in back-to-back innings before giving way to the bullpen.
Six San Francisco relievers completed the six-hitter. Sergio Romo worked the ninth for his 31st save.
"It was great to see us put up some early runs," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "We haven't done that in awhile, especially at home. Timmy rebounded from a rough start and I thought the early runs helped."
The Pirates knocked Lincecum out of the game in the sixth inning after McCutchen drew a one-out walk and Pedro Alvarez doubled. Pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez singled off reliever Jose Mijares to drive in McCutchen. Tony Sanchez followed with an RBI single to trim the lead to 5-3.
Pittsburgh had the tying runs on base later in the inning but Machi struck out Andrew Lambo and got Cliff Barnes to ground out.
The Pirates also had two runners on in the seventh but failed to score.
NOTES: Pirates leadoff hitter Starling Marte was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised right hand before the game. Marte's replacement, Lambo, was called up from Triple-A Indianapolis before the game and went hitless in three at-bats. ... Giants LHP Jeremy Affeldt (groin strain) threw off a mound and could begin a rehab assignment as early as next week. ... San Francisco is 13-3 in its last 16 games when scoring four or more runs. ... Pittsburgh has 16 home runs over its last 13 games.