SAN FRANCISCO -- Afforded by the four-day All-Star Game break to align his starting rotation any way he wished, Clint Hurdle came out of the hiatus with A.J. Burnett following Francisco Liriano. Subsequent off-days have adjusted other tiers of that rotation, but the Liriano-Burnett sequence has remained.
No sense looking too far ahead but, yes, that's the way Hurdle wants them lined up for a possible postseason run.
The Pirates manager subtly indicated a few days ago how good he would feel about those two leading the way into the playoffs. After Liriano and Burnett went seven strong innings each for back-to-back wins in San Diego, Hurdle offered this:
"When they are on their game, they can be a force. And they can beat a good team."
They will come across plenty of good teams even before October. Their next mutual challenge will be the Cardinals, whom they will face Friday and Saturday nights at PNC Park.
"I just like the way we're going about our business, throwing our best two guys back to back," Hurdle said. "We're trying to get something done."
In the final two games of the series here, Liriano and Burnett are following each other for the ninth time. With Liriano having lost Saturday, Burnett was out to prevent their third set of twin losses. Four previous times both won, and two other times they split the games.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.