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STL@PIT: Liriano fans six over eight shutout frames

Nobody rebounds from a clunker quite like Francisco Liriano.

The Pirates left-hander followed July 19's rough outing (five runs in 4 1/3 innings) with seven scoreless innings in his next start. On Aug. 14, he went the distance five days after giving up 10 runs in 2 1/3 innings.

On Tuesday, Liriano looks to follow up a lackluster effort (seven runs in three innings) with a similar gem against the Rangers in a battle of second-place teams at Rangers Ballpark.

"I'm not changing what I did before," Liriano said. "Time to get ready for the next start, forget what happened in the last one and move forward."

The Pirates -- who ensured their first winning season in 21 years and snapped a four-game losing streak with Monday's victory -- might struggle to score runs for Liriano. The Rangers counter Liriano with left-hander Martin Perez, who is 6-0 with a 2.54 ERA in his last six starts.

Like Pittsburgh, Texas is also in a tight battle for the division crown. The Pirates are one game back of St. Louis in the National League Central, while the Rangers are two behind Oakland in the American League West.

Despite the pressure -- though both clubs have Wild Card leads to fall back on -- Rangers manager Ron Washington said he's remaining calm.

"If I get too high, my players get too high. If I get too low, my players get too low. I'm always an even-keeled guy and in September, you have to stay that way," Washington said. "It is a pennant race and there are pennant race ramifications but pennant race pressure?

"Those who feel pennant race pressure won't be in a pennant race. I don't feel pennant race pressure. I feel this is where I'm supposed to be and I am doing what I want to be doing. That's the way we're going to approach it. I'm going to do things the same way I'm supposed to."

Pirates: McCutchen nearing milestone
Center fielder Andrew McCutchen is one home run shy of his third straight 20-homer, 20-steal season. He would be the eighth Pittsburgh player to have a 20/20 season and would join Barry Bonds (1990-92) as only the second to achieve the feat three straight years.

McCutchen is hitting .412 with 11 doubles, two triples, five home runs and 19 RBIs in his last 26 Interleague games, while he's also batting .500 with two homers in 13 games against the AL West this season.

Rangers: Perez in AL Rookie of Year mix?
The last six starts have arguably turned Perez into the front-runner for the AL Rookie of the Year Award. The 22-year-old's nine wins have tied the club rookie record for most victories by a left-hander, and he's the first Texas pitcher to win at least six straight starts since Kenny Rogers won eight in a row April 27-June 5, 2005.

"He's handled himself admirable for a young kid," Washington said. "To go out there and take the ball and stay under control and do what he can do, he's done a great job. I'm just enjoying what he's doing."

• The Rangers are 25-15 in one-run games.

Worth noting
• The Pirates have won 10 of their last 12 Interleague games and are 13-5 against the AL this year.

• Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre is a .359 career hitter in 53 games against the Pirates. Comments