After the unfortunate events of last night, the Padres thankfully get to hand the ball to James Shields tonight for what is hopefully a very different outcome. Since joining the staff in San Diego, Shields has very much lived up to the title of "ace." When AJ Preller signed him in February, we knew we were getting a workhorse and someone reliable to anchor the Padres rotation and provide leadership. And that's exactly what the Padres are looking for tonight.
Following a much-needed series win in Anaheim, the last thing the team wants is to revert backwards and lose the first two games of the homestand, giving up the possibility of a series win just halfway into the four-game set against the Pirates. They suffered a painful loss last night, but hopefully Shields can turn things around and even up the series by building on his success this season. The righty remains undefeated (6-0) with a respectable 3.75 ERA going into tonight's outing, his 11th of the season. Tonight will be his first career appearance against Pittsburgh.
The Pirates could prove to be a tough opponent for the solid Shields, however. They go into tonight's game riding a seven-game winning streak thanks in large part to some incredible pitching by their starting rotation. During the streak, their starters are 7-0 while posting a collective 2.39 ERA, bumping their season ERA up to 3.19, which is second only to the Cardinals in all of MLB.
Francisco Liriano will try to keep that trend going tonight as he makes his tenth start in what's been a bit of a roller coaster of a season. Liriano is just 2-4 with a 3.86 ERA. In his most recent start, which occured during the Bucs' seven-game win streak, he kept the Mets to one run in six innings of work to earn the victory. But one outing prior to that, he lasted only two innings and gave up seven runs - all earned - to the Twins. Liriano has faced the Padres four times in his career prior to tonight's matchup. He is just 1-2, despite a 2.42 ERA, in those starts. He's pitched even better at Petco Park, where he's posted a 1.50 ERA in two appearances.
Game time for tonight is set for 7:10 PT.
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