Pirates-Giants Preview

With seven wins through 10 starts, Gerrit Cole has been one of the NL's most reliable starters and is in position to match the top win total in the majors. Even so, he's been overshadowed in his own rotation by the accomplishments of a 38-year-old headed for retirement.

A similar storyline applies in his next pitching matchup with 37-year-old Ryan Vogelsong coming off possibly the best May in the majors.

Consistency meets flavor of the month Monday night in San Francisco as Cole and the Pittsburgh Pirates try to steal the spotlight from the Giants' rejuvenated veteran in a rematch of the 2014 NL wild-card clubs.

Cole (7-2, 2.11 ERA) allowed two solo homers in Wednesday's 5-2 home win over Miami for a second straight victory, but fellow starter A.J. Burnett has won five straight and owns a 1.81 season ERA in what he says will be his final year.

The junior of the two is displaying experienced stuff without surpassing two walks in any of his starts and 15 straight dating to Sept. 7. Over that span, he's issuing 1.58 walks per nine innings after posting a 2.63 mark in the first 36 starts of his career.

"It's a big deal. Free passes tend to hurt you," the right-hander told MLB's official website. "For the most part, just attacking guys and staying down in the zone and forcing early contact keeps guys uncomfortable."

Cole is 2-0 with a 3.14 ERA in two starts against San Francisco with success against Gregor Blanco (0 for 6 with four strikeouts) and Hunter Pence (1 for 6).

It's not just Cole and Burnett carrying the staff. The club's 3.04 ERA ranks second in the majors, though that wasn't apparent in Sunday's 7-1 loss in San Diego.

Pittsburgh (26-24) has still won eight of 10 with a .292 average after posting a .242 mark through 40 games. Francisco Cervelli was 3 for 4 and is batting .449 over 15 games, while Andrew McCutchen is hitting .450 over his last 11. At AT&T Park, though, the former MVP is a .221 hitter in 19 contests.

Vogelsong (4-2, 4.24) came up a win shy of Burnett's 5-0 mark in May, and his 1.14 ERA trailed only Shelby Miller and Zack Greinke for the best in baseball. After allowing a run and six hits in six innings of Wednesday's 3-1 win in Milwaukee, the right-hander is in position to win four straight starts for the first time in his career.

"Just location has been better," said Vogelsong, who's also 2-1 with a 2.06 ERA in seven home starts since the beginning of August. "When I'm mechanically right, I can go out there and make pitches."

The former Pirate is 2-3 with a 3.38 ERA in five starts against Pittsburgh. McCutchen (3 for 14) and Pedro Alvarez (2 for 13 with seven strikeouts) haven't figured him out, but Neil Walker is 7 for 16 with four doubles.

The Giants (30-22) dropped the last two of a four-game set with Atlanta after winning five straight. Even so, they completed a 21-9 May and are a half-game behind the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers after entering the month in last.

Joe Panik was 2 for 4 with a home run in Sunday's 7-5 loss and has a 14-game home hitting streak, while double-play partner Brandon Crawford also homered and is batting .363 in 21 games.

It was the first time in 41 games San Francisco has scored five runs or more and lost, during which it's batting a major league-best .284.

Including San Francisco's wild-card win last year, the clubs have split 32 games dating to 2010, the Giants' first of three World Series-winning seasons.

Pence is in 2-for-20 slumps overall and against the Pirates.


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