Pirates-Padres Preview

Though the Pittsburgh Pirates’ weeklong-winning streak has ended, Charlie Morton hopes his success has just begun.

Looking to help the visiting Pirates bounce back, Morton tries to build on a stellar season debut Saturday night against the San Diego Padres.

Anxious to return from hip surgery that ended his 2014 campaign in mid-September, Morton overcame eight hits by giving up two runs and not walking a batter in eight innings of Monday’s 4-2 victory at Miami.

”I think it was just a relief,” said the right-hander, who went 6-12 with a decent 3.72 ERA in 26 starts but matched a career high for losses last season.

”I knew my stuff was pretty good during rehab starts," he added. "I knew I was getting ground balls and swings and misses. I knew it was good enough to get big league hitters out but to go out and do it is really (something different).”

After spending time this spring refining his mechanics, Morton believes he’s improved but remains far from a polished product.

”My stroke is a little bit better, more fluid,” he said. ”My timing is a little bit better. My direction. Everything is a little bit better overall. Those are things I can keep tweaking, fine tuning and get better."

Morton is 2-0 with a 2.61 ERA at Petco Park, where Pittsburgh’s seven-game winning streak ended with Friday’s 6-2 defeat. The Pirates (25-23) averaged 6.6 runs and 10.7 seven hits during their run but managed only six hits Friday, highlighted by Pedro Alvarez’s two-run single in the third.

Pittsburgh held that 2-0 lead until Abraham Almonte’s two-run double in the seventh. Derek Norris belted a grand slam with two outs in the ninth after striking out in his first four at-bats to become the first player to record such a game since Mark Teixeira for Texas on May 25, 2003.

"The great thing about this game is you continue to play the game the right way and you continue to bust your butt and play the game hard and good situations come up and you stay confident in yourself," Norris said.

He was more thrilled with the way the Padres (24-26) rallied for their third win in four games.

"We’ve got a lot of competitors," Norris said. "We’ve got a lot of guys who love to play baseball. We’ve got a lot of grinders."

Tyson Ross (2-4, 3.84 ERA) is one of those players.

Despite giving up a season-high 10 hits, San Diego’s Tyson Ross (2-4, 3.84) allowed two earned runs and one walk while not factoring in the decision of Monday’s 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. Though Ross is second in the majors with 30 walks, he was pleased with his overall control while yielding two earned runs for the sixth time in his 10 starts.

"If I can stay right there, let the defense work behind me, the results are going to be pretty positive," Ross told MLB’s official website.

The right-hander is 1-1 with a 3.72 ERA in three starts versus Pittsburgh.

Though Alvarez is 1 for 5 with a triple against Ross, he’s batting .391 with eight RBIs in his last seven contests.

Teammate Gregory Polanco is 2 for 3 with a home run and double versus Ross.