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SD@CWS: Kennedy strikes out nine over six innings

For Francisco Liriano, the goose egg is -- finally -- gone.

It took 12 starts, but Liriano finally picked up his first win of the season in his last outing, in which he struck out eight and shut out the Dodgers in 5 2/3 innings. Now the question for the 30-year-old is are his early-season struggles also a thing of the past?

Liriano (1-5, 4.62 ERA) struggled mightily in his first 11 starts, posting an ERA north of 5.00 and surrendering at least four runs in six of those starts.

These woes have followed a surprisingly outstanding 2013 campaign for the lefty, which saw him compile a 16-8 record with a 3.02 ERA. It was the first time since 2010 that Liriano finished a season with a sub-5.00 era.

Thus far in 2014, last year's success looks like an aberration.

While he has been a detriment to his own success, he hasn't received much help from his teammates, either, as the Pirates have provided Liriano with just 3.41 runs per start.

Such a meager output by the Pirates would suffice for Ian Kennedy, Wednesday's starter for the Padres.

Kennedy (4-6, 3.42 ERA) has turned in two consecutive strong outings and was rewarded with the win in each. The 29-year-old scattered six hits and five walks while allowing just two earned runs in 12 innings in the two starts, one against each Chicago team.

The Windy City's teams were nice to Kennedy; he hasn't had as much success in his career against the team from the Steel City. The right-hander is 2-2 with a 4.15 ERA in six career starts against the Pirates, a team he last faced on two occasions last season.

Liriano has excelled in two career starts against the Padres, with a record of 1-0 and a 1.93 ERA. He last faced San Diego last August and struck out 13 in seven shutout innings.

Pirates: Marte likely back in the lineup
After his latest "timeout" by not being in the lineup on Tuesday amid his recent struggles, Starling Marte should return to the lineup on Wednesday after getting another "timeout" for slumping.

 The 23-year-old is just 1-for-his-last-23 at the plate.

"I just wanted to unplug him, just to rest his body and his mind," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's been hard-sledding for him for a while."

Marte's average (.237) is the lowest it has been all season.

Given Josh Harrison's productivity and with the arrival of top outfield prospect Gregory Polanco seemingly imminent after his dominance at AAA-Indianapolis, the struggles may come at a particularly poor time for Marte.

If Marte doesn't snap out of his funk soon, he could be the one being replaced by Polanco, not Harrison as has been the expectation.

Padres: Lane makes a second debut
It's not too often a player with 106 big league games under his belt makes a "debut" in game No. 107, but that's exactly what Jason Lane did on Tuesday night.

The former outfielder -- now a pitcher -- made his big league debut on the mound, impressing with 3 1/3 hitless innings, thus completing his career transformation two seasons after last appearing in a game at the Major League level.

"I feel pretty good, I feel like I've come a long way in somewhat of a short time doing it. I still learn something every time out there," the 37-year-old Lane said. "I always believe I could, that's why I was doing it. I don't want to say I was surprised.

"I just love the game. I always felt like I could still help a team win at the big league level. There's always that fire in there, I just love playing on both sides. It really hasn't been that much of a grind on that end just because I always enjoyed where I was at when I was going."

Manager Bud Black has been touched by Lane's journey.

"Jason was on that 2007 team that we had the play-in game in Colorado. A great story. He's persevered over the last eight seasons to get back to the major leagues," Black said. "I'm happy for him, he's a great guy."

Worth Noting
• Black said the team will go with a four-man rotation [Kennedy, Eric Stults, Tyler Ross, Andrew Cashner] until next weekend in New York, thanks to off-days on Thursday and next Monday. Cashner is on track to return this weekend against the Nationals on Saturday.

• Neil Walker's 27 homers since the start of the 2013 season are the most for NL switch-hitters. Comments