The San Diego Padres continued to be problematic for the Pittsburgh Pirates, as they held the Bucs offense at bay in a 3-1 decision Monday night at PETCO Park.
The Pirates (67-55) played 19 innings in Sunday’s win over the Cardinals, and it looked like they left some energy behind in the Midwest, at least when it came to the high-leverage moments. After cutting into the Padres’ early 3-0 lead with a single run in the sixth, Pittsburgh had a runner at second base in each of the last three innings but failed to plate any more.
San Diego (54-70) has now won three of four games on the season after claiming Monday’s series opener. Despite the loss, Pittsburgh is still a half game ahead of Los Angeles for the National League’s second wild-card position. The Pirates will send ace A.J. Burnett out in the middle game of the series Tuesday at 10:05 p.m. Eastern.
The Bucs finished the night 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position, including two threat-ending strikeouts by Andrew McCutchen in the seventh and ninth innings. Travis Snider also misfired twice in such situations and was 0-for-4 with four strikeouts against San Diego starter Edinson Volquez and closer Dale Thayer.
But it was Volquez who carried most of the load Monday night. The former Cincinnati righthander struck out 10 Pirates in 6 2/3 innings. He gave way to Brad Brach and Luke Gregerson, who bridged the gap to Thayer for his seventh save.
Beyond their seven hits, the Bucs hit many balls hard but had issues finding gaps in the key moments. Most notably, McCutchen flied out to the centerfield wall in the third with two men on, and Rod Barajas twice smoked pitches right at San Diego fielders to miss RBI opportunities.
One day after pitching two innings in the Pirates’ six-hour victory in St. Louis, Kevin Correia let manager Clint Hurdle know he would be available to pitch Monday if needed. So Correia took the mound to start the series opener against the Padres, and he threw 4 1/3 innings to take the load off an overtaxed Pittsburgh pitching staff.
The Padres struck for three runs against Correia, who was reassigned to the bullpen when Wandy Rodriguez was acquired from Houston last month. Tony Watson cleaned up the fifth after Correia’s night was done, and then 24-year-old Kyle McPherson made his MLB debut with a scoreless sixth, striking out two and allowing one hit. Flashing a mid-90s fastball and sharp-dropping curveball, he followed up with a perfect seventh.
McPherson (2007 draft pick) and Justin Wilson (2008) were both called up from Triple-A Indianapolis before the game, reinforcing a bullpen that had to cover 12 innings Sunday. Wilson followed McPherson’s first Pirates appearance with his maiden inning, as the former Fresno State star and College World Series hero entered in the eighth.
The lefty struck out the first two batters he faced, surrendered a pair of hits to Cameron Maybin and Chris Denorfia, then struck out Everth Cabrera to escape the mini-jam.
On the offensive side, Neil Walker cashed in the Pirates’ lone run when his single to left scored McCutchen, who had reached on an infield single in the sixth. Jose Tabata, in his second game after being recalled to replace the injured Starling Marte, put together a 3-for-5 night, including the Pirates’ only extra-base hit, a double in the seventh.