A.J. Burnett faces former teammate in series finale


May 20, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher A.J. Burnett (34) throws against the Miami Marlins during the second inning at Marlins Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Phillies will send A.J. Burnett to the mound against his former Pittsburgh Pirates teammate, Francisco Liriano, in Thursday’s series finale.

The two hurlers were teammates in 2013.  Liriano clearly had the better year with a 16-8 record and a 3.02 ERA while Burnett finished the season 10-11 with a 3.30 ERA.  This season neither one owns a winning record as Burnett is 8-15 and Liriano is 4-10, a year after receiving nine votes for the Cy Young Award.

While Burnett is fresh off a seven-inning gem against the Washington Nationals he took a loss against the Pirates on July 6th and has only won three games since then.  The veteran has not beaten Pittsburgh since his first ever start against them in 2001.  In four career starts against the Pirates Burnett is 1-2 and three of those starts came when he was a member of the Florida Marlins.

Liriano is also coming off a strong game, throwing six shutout innings against the Chicago Cubs and striking out nine to get the win.    Three of his four wins this season have come on the road and he has limited hitters to a .180 average away from PNC Park.  The southpaw has never faced the Phillies in his eight-year career.

Marlon Byrd is 5-for-7 lifetime against Liriano with four RBIs.

The Pirates’ Josh Harrison has pushed himself ahead of the pack in the National League batting title race in the series.  Harrison bumped his NL-best batting average up to .318 with two hits Wednesday night though he is still considered day-to-day with an ankle injury.  He leads Ben Revere who has dropped down to fourth in the rankings with a .308 average and is 0-for-12 to start the series.

Heading into Thursday night’s game, Pittsburgh leads the season series 5-1 and both teams are 5-5 in their last ten games.  Philadelphia is now 15.5 games behind Washington Nationals in the NL East and 3.5 behind the fourth place New York Mets.