Francisco Liriano helped key the Pittsburgh Pirates' run to their first playoff appearance in 21 years. But for the Pirates to return to the postseason, they'll likely need a turnaround from Liriano following his disappointing first half.
The Colorado Rockies are hoping for more consistency from their entire starting rotation.
Pittsburgh looks for a 10th home win in 12 games Friday night when it hosts Colorado.
Liriano (1-7, 4.72 ERA) was the Pirates' most reliable starter in 2013, going 16-8 with the second-lowest ERA of his career (3.02). His 3.52 walks per nine innings was his second-lowest mark since 2008, but that number has climbed to 4.95, and he has thrown fewer than six innings in nine of his last 10 outings.
Liriano has had a particularly tough time at home, posting an 0-3 record with a 5.98 ERA in eight starts there.
Even with Liriano's struggles, Pittsburgh (49-46) is just 3 1/2 games out of first place in the NL Central.
He gave up three runs - all on a second-inning home run - and three hits over four innings while matching a season high with six walks Sunday at Cincinnati in his first start since June 10 after being sidelined by a strained oblique.
''They count on me,'' Liriano said. ''I'm just going to do everything I can to keep the team in the game. Now that I'm healthy, I think I can pitch a lot better than what I was pitching.''
The left-hander was wildly inconsistent in two matchups with Colorado last season, throwing seven scoreless innings despite five walks in a 5-2 victory on Aug. 3. He gave up a career-worst 10 runs over 2 1-3 innings in a 10-1 loss six days later.
Colorado (40-55) is an NL-worst 6-20 since June 16, with its starters compiling a 6.91 ERA in that span. The lack of depth in its rotation has hurt as Jordan Lyles, Jhoulys Chacin, Tyler Chatwood - who combined for 29 wins in 2013 - are all currently on the disabled list.
"Our pitching needs to be more consistent," Troy Tulowitzki, who leads the majors with a .345 average and is tied for the NL lead with 21 homers, told MLB's official website. "Those guys need to go deeper into games. Be healthy. I think so many key people went down. So they are coming back, and when we have them we are very talented."
Reigning NL batting champ Michael Cuddyer also hasn't played since June 5 due to a strained shoulder as the Rockies begin the second half of the season 13 games out of first.
Jorge De La Rosa (10-6, 4.56) has endured a tumultuous season but has won four straight starts after limiting Minnesota to one run in six innings of a 6-2 victory last Friday. The southpaw is 4-3 with a 4.01 ERA in 13 games - nine starts - against the Pirates.
Andrew McCutchen is batting .408 over his last 12 games with five homers and 13 RBIs and has eight multihit performances in his last 14 matchups with Colorado. He's also 5 for 14 off De La Rosa with three extra-base hits.
Tulowitzki is hitting .157 in his last 15 games against Pittsburgh.
The Pirates are an NL-best 21-10 at home since May 6.