Contributions from their pitching staff and a depleted lineup have kept the Pittsburgh Pirates well in contention for a second straight playoff berth.
Vance Worley will try to lead the club to a third consecutive win while earning his third in four starts Friday night but might have to outduel the San Diego Padres’ Ian Kennedy.
Pittsburgh (61-53) played without Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez on Thursday against Miami, but Edinson Volquez and reliever Justin Wilson combined to allow one hit in the first eight innings of a 7-2 victory.
Gregory Polanco matched a career high with four RBIs while putting the Pirates within a half-game of wild card leaders St. Louis and San Francisco and keeping them 1 1/2 back of Milwaukee in the NL Central.
Pittsburgh is batting .297 with 36 runs in a 4-2 start this month despite those absences. The most notable, McCutchen, has a fractured rib and is hoping to avoid a trip to the disabled list.
"He’s gotten better, and he’s adding more to his return to recovery routine," manager Clint Hurdle told MLB’s official website. "It’s still wait and see."
Walker sat out for the fourth time in five games due to back tightness, and Pedro Alvarez was on the bereavement list. Alvarez is eligible to return Friday.
With those players out, the Pirates’ staff has continued to pitch in with a 2.80 ERA in the past six games. Their starters have a 2.33 ERA.
Worley (4-1, 2.43 ERA) did his part by allowing one run in six innings Saturday in Arizona but did not get a decision in an 8-3 victory. He’s 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA in his last three starts and recorded his first career shutout July 28, a four-hitter in a 5-0 win in San Francisco.
While his team doesn’t have viable playoff hopes, Kennedy (8-9, 3.59) has been almost as effective lately, going 3-0 with a 2.43 ERA in his last six starts. After having to skip a start due to a strained left oblique, he gave up one runs and two hits in five innings while striking out seven on Saturday against Atlanta.
He also walked five and did not get a decision in a 3-2 win.
The Padres (52-61) have outscored opponents 40-21 while winning six of eight. They snapped a four-game road losing streak Wednesday with a 5-4 victory in 10 innings over Minnesota.
"It was nice to win a game like that," said Seth Smith, who hit the winning home run. "Those are the games you need to win."
Kennedy will try to add to his team’s surge with another strong outing against the Pirates. He gave up two runs in six innings and fanned seven in a 3-2 home victory June 4 after going 1-2 with a 6.53 ERA in his prior four matchups.
Kennedy is 0-2 with a 12.91 ERA in his last two starts in Pittsburgh, the latest a 10-1 loss Sept. 19. Worley went 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his only two meetings with San Diego, both in 2012 when he was with Philadelphia.
The Pirates took two of three from the Padres on June 2-4, and Jordy Mercer went 7 for 13 with five runs in the series. Josh Harrison was 7 for 14, and Walker went 4 for 9 with five RBIs.
Walker is 8 for 18 with three homers in his career against Kennedy, and Ike Davis has four solo homers in 12 at-bats.