CHC@PIT: Hurdle talks Liriano's strong start vs. Cubs

PITTSBURGH -- Francisco Liriano will start on Friday to kick off a critical weekend series against the Reds, and he could start again in Cincinnati the final day of the regular season on short rest, if the Pirates need the game to sew up a playoff berth.

On regular rotation -- factoring in next Thursday's off-day -- Liriano would be on schedule to start Wednesday's game in Chicago, then the Bucs' first postseason game, which would be either the Wild Card game on Oct. 1 or the first game of the NLDS on Oct. 3.

"The way it lines up, with no changes, he'd be able to pitch a play-in game [in the event of a tie] or the Wild Card game, which is not a bad option to have, if that's where you end up going," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of his 16-game winner.

Of the Bucs' two top-of-the-rotation guys, Liriano is the only one who offers the flexibility of picking up an extra start, if needed. A.J. Burnett will pitch on Saturday against the Reds, locking him in to lead off next weekend's series at Great American Ball Park.

A last-day start for Liriano would come on three days' rest, something he's done only twice in his career, once in 2005 and once last season. He is 1-0 in those two starts, having allowed only three hits in 12 innings, while striking out 15. His finest game of an otherwise down 2012 season came on the short rest, when he held the Twins to one hit in seven innings of a Sept. 15 win.

"It's an option we've talked about," Hurdle said. "We'll see if we need to make an adjustment based on the schedule, wins and losses, opportunity."

Worth noting

Justin Wilson has not emerged from the bullpen since Friday, and not because there haven't been opportunities for him to pitch. The lefty, who has made only four appearances in September, is on a planned hiatus, resting up for the Reds series to face the likes of lefties Shin-Soo Choo, Joey Votto and Jay Bruce.

"With his volume of work [55 games, 71 innings for the first-time reliever] I wanted to hit his pause button," Hurdle said. "He'll be available Saturday for sure, maybe Friday."

Starling Marte was in the Pirates' preliminary lineup on Thursday, before he took off for the hospital to join his wife for the birth of their first child.

• The Pirates finished the season 14-18 against National League West clubs. They have a winning record against every other division they've played, including Interleague games against the American League West (12-4) and Central (3-1).

First number, last word

95: Home runs allowed this season by the Pirates, fewest in the Majors (St. Louis is next, with 109) and the club's lowest total since the 1975 staff gave up 79.

"We had a to-do list coming in, and have knocked down some ... we'll have to leave the Padres thing on the back burner and put it on the 2014 list." -- Hurdle, on the inability to reverse the Pirates' fortunes at home against San Diego.