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PIT@SD: Liriano dazzles with 13 strikeouts in win

On a Pittsburgh pitching staff that has statistically been the best in baseball this season, Francisco Liriano has cemented himself as the ace.

Take away his 10-run blowup in Colorado earlier this month, and the veteran southpaw has won five straight starts, lasting at least seven innings in each.

Liriano (14-5, 2.53 ERA) will look to build on his already-solid campaign Saturday in San Francisco. The Pirates took the first two games of the four-game set, and remain atop the National League Central -- the league's tightest race.

The Cardinals trail Pittsburgh by just one game in the division, and the third-place Reds are still very much alive, sitting 3 1/2 back.

Opposite Liriano will be two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, whose ERA is exactly two runs higher than that of Liriano. On Monday against Boston, Lincecum lasted five innings and allowed five runs on nine hits and four walks.

"The pitches that I was leaving up were middle-of-the-plate kind of up," Lincecum said. "So I wasn't really giving myself a chance to get out of anything."

The Giants may be toiling away at the bottom of the National League West, but manager Bruce Bochy sees plenty to play for as the season winds down.

"We want to finish strong," Bochy said. "You'll be seeing younger players getting some at-bats. At some point we'll sit down and evaluate where we're at and what we need to do. Regardless of who's out there, you want to play the game right, and you play to win."

Pirates: McCutchen stating MVP case
• Center fielder Andrew McCutchen has been arguably the best player in baseball since the All-Star break.

He's hitting .381 in the season's second half with multi-hit games in 19 of the 35 contests.

McCutchen's recent surge, coupled with the Pirates' winning ways, has the Gold Glove center fielder in the thick of a tight NL MVP Award race.

Giants: Cain to DL for first time
• Right-hander Matt Cain was placed on the disabled list for the first time in his career on Friday. He was hit on the right forearm with a line drive from Gaby Sanchez on Thursday night.

"I take pride in going out and taking the ball every fifth day," Cain said. "Not being able to do that will be a different situation."

San Francisco called up Yusmeiro Petit from Triple-A Fresno in a corresponding move. Petit will likely start Tuesday in Colorado.

Worth noting
• The Pirates' Clint Barmes (21 at-bats) and McCutchen (14 at-bats) are each hitting .143 against Lincecum in their careers. But each also has a home run against him.

• Liriano has received a decision in all 19 of his starts this season.

• Giants first baseman Brandon Belt is hitting .346 with five doubles, three triples and five homers in August.

• McCutchen has hit safely in 10 consecutive games against the Giants. Neil Walker, meanwhile, sports a .386 lifetime average against San Francisco.

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