May 04, 2014

Pedro Alvarez seems to be pulling out of his early season slump.

Manager Clint Hurdle may be hoping that also applies to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

A day after Alvarez and Starling Marte provided the dramatics, the Pirates go for back-to-back wins for the first time in nearly a month Saturday night against the visiting Toronto Blue Jays.

Alvarez is 7 for 19 (.368) with three RBIs over the past four games, increasing his season average 35 points to .204. The third baseman, who has team highs of seven home runs and 17 RBIs, had a game-tying, two-run homer in the ninth inning Friday and Marte followed two batters later with a walkoff shot in a 6-5 win over Toronto (13-16).

Marte is 7 for 12 with three RBIs in the past three games.

"It's been a while since Pedro has been able to ride one out of the ballpark," Hurdle said. "Marte's at-bats have gotten bigger, none bigger than that one. Those kind of at-bats can create a spark, create more momentum and more traction."

Pittsburgh (11-18) could certainly use something to build on considering it's 6-16 since last winning consecutive games April 6 and 8.

Hurdle may also be looking for Francisco Liriano (0-3, 3.97 ERA) to gain some traction of his own, as he's scheduled to take the mound for a seventh chance at his first win of the season.

Flu-like symptoms cut his start short last Saturday. The left-hander had a nosebleed and felt dizzy and weak, so he was pulled following two scoreless innings of a 6-1 win at St. Louis.

"I went to the hospital because of that once, but they don't know what it is," Liriano told the team's official website. "My mother and father also got nosebleeds."

Liriano earned a 7-2 win in his most recent start against the Blue Jays on Aug. 16, 2012, allowing two runs in 6 1-3 innings for the Chicago White Sox. He had lost each of his previous three starts versus Toronto behind a 5.74 ERA.

He's allowed Jose Bautista to go 3 for 9 with a double off him, and the four-time All-Star enters this matchup with a 12-game hitting streak. He's batting .348 with eight RBIs, 11 runs and 11 walks over that stretch.

The Blue Jays, losers of seven of nine, are expected to give the ball to R.A. Dickey (2-3, 5.09), who allowed one run and five hits while matching his season high of six strikeouts with no walks in 6 1-3 innings of Sunday's 7-1 victory over Boston.

The right-handed knuckleballer was 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA while issuing 11 walks in 17 1-3 innings over his three previous outings.

"When I have one-to-two-to-zero walks, it's usually going to be a pretty good day, and that's what I need to get back to, and like I said, (Sunday) was a good step in that direction," Dickey told the team's official website.

Dickey has a 2.06 ERA while going 3-2 over his last five starts against the Pirates, including a pair of complete games. He's split two visits to Pittsburgh, yielding two earned runs with 15 strikeouts and two walks in 15 innings.

He has limited Alvarez to one hit in 10 at-bats while Marte is 0 for 3 in their matchups.

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