Pirates-Padres Preview

The Pittsburgh Pirates had some room to breathe in the NL

wild-card standings after a series win over the weekend against one

of their main pursuers.

A series against a team far from playoff contention has been

more problematic.

The Pirates will try to avoid a three-game sweep by the San

Diego Padres on Wednesday.

After taking two of three at St. Louis last weekend, Pittsburgh

had a two-game lead over St. Louis for the last wild-card spot.

However, the Pirates have lost the first two games of this set,

including 7-5 in 10 innings Tuesday, cutting their lead to one-half

game over the Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Garrett Jones hit a game-tying, two-run homer in the ninth, but

Chase Headley hit a two-run shot to win it in the 10th off Daniel

McCutchen.

“I hung a changeup and (Headley) hammered it,” McCutchen said.

“That wasn’t what I was wanting. Jones’ home run was clutch and I

wanted to come in there and help. Walking the leadoff guy was a

no-no. I threw a cookie to him 3-2 and paid for it.”

The Pirates (67-56) have lost 14 of 23 since July 28, when they

were two games behind Cincinnati for first place in the NL Central

and led the NL wild card. They are 4-9 against NL West teams during

that stretch, losing four of five to the Padres (55-70).

Pittsburgh is one of several teams that has struggled to win

recently at Petco Park. San Diego has won three straight and 13 of

its last 17 there and has scored seven or more runs in three of its

last four home games.

Headley’s homer was his ninth this month with 26 RBIs, both

major-league highs.

Andrew McCutchen is having a much tougher stretch in August.

He’s hitting .200 (10 for 50) with 14 strikeouts with one home run

in his last 12 games. He’s 2 for 10 in this series and 4 for 23

against the Padres this year.

Pittsburgh, which hasn’t been swept in a three-game series since

losing three at Baltimore in June, will hand the ball Wednesday to

James McDonald (11-5, 3.61 ERA), who tries to build off one of his

better starts in a month.

McDonald gave up two hits and struck out seven in six scoreless

innings of a 2-1 win over St. Louis on Friday. He had an 8.71 ERA

over the previous six starts.

“You see people go through ruts like that,” McDonald said. “What

makes you a better player is getting through it. That’s how I’ll

remember this time.”

The right-hander’s previous start came against the Padres. He

was charged with seven runs and seven hits in 4 1-3 innings of a

9-8 loss on Aug. 10, but didn’t factor in the decision.

McDonald is 1-1 with an 8.64 ERA in four career starts against

San Diego while also making three relief appearances.

Andrew Werner will make his major league debut for the

Padres.

The 25-year-old left-hander was 1-2 with a 5.79 ERA in four

starts with Triple-A Tucson after going 4-8 with a 3.23 ERA in 18

starts at Double-A San Antonio.

“I didn’t think there was any shot,” Werner told the Padres’

official website. “I’m just really excited to be here.”