Padres end positive trip with 10-1 loss to Pirates

The San Diego Padres still own PNC Park.

They just let the Pittsburgh Pirates borrow it for a day.

Neil Walker had four hits, including his 11th homer of the

season, and drove in three runs to lead the Pirates to a 10-1 win

over San Diego on Thursday as Pittsburgh salvaged the finale of a

four-game series.

Pedro Alvarez hit his NL-leading 34th homer for Pittsburgh. Jose

Tabata added two hits and three RBIs as the Pirates moved a game in

front of Cincinnati for the top wild-card spot in the NL.

There are no such postseason plans in San Diego, though manager

Bud Black is encouraged after his team went 6-4 on a 10-day trip

that included series victories in playoff-bound Atlanta and

Pittsburgh. And despite the loss the Padres improved to 31-11 at

PNC Park since it opened in 2001.

”We played well on this trip,” Black said. ”It’s all about

how we pitched. … Our guys know if we pitch well we’ve got a

chance to win.”

It didn’t happen on Thursday. Ian Kennedy (6-10) allowed six

runs on eight hits in 3 2-3 innings as San Diego’s four-game

winning streak ended with a thud. Kennedy labored through three

innings before imploding in the fourth, when Pittsburgh pushed

across five runs behind homers from Alvarez and Walker.

”He just couldn’t command any of his pitches in the fourth,”

Black said of Kennedy.

There were no such worries for Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole (9-7).

The rookie right-hander struck out a career-high 12 while allowing

one run and four hits in six innings. Mixing a fastball that tops

out in the high 90s with a quickly improving breaking ball, Cole

kept the Padres off balance.

”He was running up there to 97, 98, using both sides of the

plate,” San Diego’s Nick Hundley said. ” I think as he continues

to evolve as a pitcher.”

The win inched Pittsburgh closer to its first postseason berth

in 21 years and gave the Pirates some momentum heading into the

showdown with the Reds. It also took some of the sting out of a 3-2

loss on Wednesday night when closer Mark Melancon surrendered two

runs in the ninth in his third blown save this season.

Cole’s main weakness may be that he gets too fired up. His ERA

in the first inning rose to 6.00 when Tommy Medica’s two-out RBI

single gave the Padres an early lead. It was the lone hiccup on a

day he bolstered his case to earn a start in October if the Pirates

make it that far.

And for once, he received a little help from an offense that

finally found some traction after 27 fruitless innings. Pittsburgh

scored just four runs and produced 11 hits through the first three

games of the series before breaking out against Kennedy.

”It was a feel good for everybody today,” Pittsburgh manager

Clint Hurdle said.

Making a spot start while leadoff hitter Starling Marte spent

the day in the hospital helping his wife welcome their first child,

Tabata scored on a fielder’s-choice grounder by Andrew McCutchen to

tie it in the first. Three innings later, Alvarez crushed a

belt-high Kennedy pitch and sent it nearly to the concourse behind

the seats in center for just his second home run in 22 games.

The homer sent a jolt through Pittsburgh’s dugout. Tabata hit a

two-run double with two outs, and Walker followed with a shot to

right that climbed just over the top of the Clemente Wall for a 6-1

lead.

Cole worked out of a two-on, two-out jam in the fifth and

completed his career day by striking out Nick Hundley swinging. The

burly right-hander pumped his first in celebration as he walked off

the mound. The Pirates hadn’t won a game by more than two runs

since knocking off Milwaukee 5-2 on Sept. 2.

”We’re on a little bit of a skid there and we’re fighting out

there and we’re playing decent ball and we’re fighting and it was

just nice to be able to give the team a chance to win and we were

able to capitalize on it,” Cole said.

NOTES: Hurdle said he hasn’t set a rotation for the final week

of the season. If the Pirates don’t make any changes, ace Francisco

Liriano would be available to pitch the opening game of the

playoffs. Liriano (16-7, 2.29 ERA) will start Friday night against

Cincinnati’s Mat Latos (14-6, 3.14) … San Diego begins a

three-game series at home on Friday against the Los Angeles

Dodgers. Robbie Erlin (2-3, 5.18 ERA) will face Edinson Volquez

(9-11, 5.94).

Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP