Pirates-Padres Preview

The Pittsburgh Pirates arrived in San Diego a bit exhausted and

originally uncertain about who their starting pitcher would be in

the series opener against a Padres team that has historically given

them trouble.

Despite these seemingly glaring disadvantages, they’re in high

spirits.

After outlasting a team right on their heels in the wild-card

race to win the majors’ longest game of the year, the Pirates hope

to ride the momentum into Monday night’s opener with the Padres,

who are going for their 16th victory in the last 19 meetings in the

series.

In a season filled with encouraging victories for a Pirates

franchise seeking its first playoff berth since 1992, Sunday’s 6-3,

19-inning win over St. Louis might have been its biggest. Pedro

Alvarez homered in the 19th and two more runs came around on an

Andrew McCutchen single for the Pirates (67-54), who took two of

three from the Cardinals to move two games ahead of their division

rival in the race for the league’s last wild-card spot.

“It was a battle all around on both sides,” McCutchen said.

“They came to play and we were just able to get the win.

“It feels good.”

Wandy Rodriguez, the eighth pitcher used by the Pirates, threw

two scoreless innings to earn the win. A problem with that,

however, is he was scheduled to start Monday.

Manager Clint Hurdle had not selected a starter to replace him

until deciding Monday to use former Padres right-hander Kevin

Correia (9-7, 4.56 ERA). Correia threw 24 pitches over two

scoreless innings out of the bullpen Sunday, and will become the

first Pirate to appear in relief and start the next day since

Pascual Perez in 1981.

Hurdle is also hoping to come up with a way to beat the Padres

(53-70), something the Pirates have struggled with mightily over

the past few seasons.

Pittsburgh won for only the third time in 18 meetings with an

11-5 victory over San Diego last Sunday at PNC Park to snap a

five-game losing streak in the series.

Clint Barmes homered and drove in four runs in the last game,

while McCutchen, Neil Walker and Michael McKenry each had two RBIs.

McCutchen finished with two hits after going 5 for 41 (.122) with

two RBIs in his previous 12 games in the series.

Although McCutchen and the Pirates haven’t enjoyed much success

lately against San Diego, they could have better luck facing

Edinson Volquez (7-9, 4.31) again.

Volquez has a 13.83 ERA in his last four starts – causing his

ERA to jump from 3.30 – and hasn’t made it out of the fourth inning

in any of his three games this month.

“It’s kind of frustrating because I’m used to going deep in

games,” the right-hander said after being tagged for six runs and

seven hits in 3 2-3 innings of a 6-1 loss to Atlanta on Wednesday.

“Now the last three starts have been kind of short. We’ll see what

happens the next game.”

He didn’t fare too well against the Pirates on Aug. 10, though,

yielding six runs and seven hits in 3 1-3 innings, but the Padres

rallied for a 9-8 win. McCutchen was 0 for 2 against Volquez, while

Travis Snider had a three-run homer and Garrett Jones had a solo

shot.

Unlike McCutchen, Chase Headley has put up gaudy numbers in this

series, and he’s likely eager for it to begin after being ejected

following a fly out in the fourth inning of Sunday’s 7-1 win over

San Francisco, snapping the Padres’ five-game skid.

Headley, August’s major league leader with 24 RBIs and the NL

leader with eight home runs, had three homers in Pittsburgh last

week, and is batting .345 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in his

last eight games in the series.