Giants Vs. Pirates: Bucs Try To Finish First Half Strong

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 15: Andrew McCutchen scores in the eighth inning on a throwing error by third baseman Pablo Sandoval of the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on April 15, 2012 in San Francisco, California. In honor of Jackie Robinson Day, all players across Major League Baseball will wear number 42. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

On Friday night, the Pirates begin their last series before the All-Star break.

The Pirates hold a two-game lead on the rest of the NL Central division, and they'll hope to maintain that lead in their last series before the All-Star break, against the San Francisco Giants.

The first matchup of the series features Barry Zito and Erik Bedard (Friday, 7:05). Superficially, it looks like Zito is having a bit of a comeback season so far, with a 3.84 ERA, but he's mostly just getting lucky, allowing an unsustainably low .252 batting average on balls in play and striking out very few batters. His xFIP is a much-higher 5.30.

On Saturday (4:05), former Pirate Ryan Vogelsong takes on James McDonald. The Bucs' starter on Sunday (1:35) will be A.J. Burnett; the Giants have yet to announce their Sunday starter. It's Tim Lincecum's turn in the rotation, but Lincecum has struggled all season and got hit hard on Tuesday against the Washington Nationals.

For more on the Pirates, check out Bucs Dugout. For more on the Giants, there's McCovey Chronicles.

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