While the Pittsburgh Pirates seem to have resigned themselves to a finish that mirrors the rest of their dismal season, the San Diego Padres have shown dramatic improvement lately - especially on the road.
The Padres look to clinch their fifth straight series win away from home Monday night when they complete a four-game set against the still struggling Pirates.
Already doomed to its major league-record 17th straight sub-.500 season, Pittsburgh (56-91) hasn’t done much to avoid its fourth last-place finish in the NL Central in five years. The Pirates have been outscored 122-67 while dropping 19 of 22.
The Padres (68-82) will also finish with a losing record, but they’ve managed to step up their play over the last month. They’ve gone 16-8 since Aug. 25, including 10-5 on the road.
That hot streak outside San Diego has included series wins over Atlanta, Florida, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco - all teams still in the playoff hunt.
The Padres have continued their road success by taking two of the first three in this series at PNC Park. Kevin Correia(notes) pitched seven strong innings and seven of San Diego’s eight starting position players had at least one hit in a 4-0 victory Sunday.
“I thought as a group throughout the lineup, we were on and everybody was bearing down and having good at-bats and our pitchers made it hold up,” manager Bud Black told the Padres’ official Web site.
The Pirates went 1 for 10 with runners on base while playing without first baseman Garrett Jones(notes) (strained right shoulder), second baseman Delwyn Young(notes) (lower back spasms) and third baseman Andy LaRoche(notes) (flu).
“Correia pitched well but we’re not a very good offensive club right now,” said manager John Russell, whose team has one run and gone 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position in back-to-back losses after winning the series opener.
“We’re missing some guys, but we’re not taking a good approach with runners on base. We’re having too many one-pitch at bats with guys on base and you’re not going to score runs that way.”
After going 0-1 with a 9.58 ERA in his first three games, the left-hander has gone 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA in three starts this month.
LeBlanc held Arizona to one run and three hits in six innings Tuesday and didn’t get a decision in San Diego’s 4-2 loss. He gave up two runs in 2 2-3 innings of relief in his only previous appearance against Pittsburgh last September.
The Pirates will hand the ball to Daniel McCutchen(notes) (0-2, 5.50) for his fourth career start. The right-hander has given up four runs in each of his last two outings, both defeats. He was pulled after five innings in last Monday’s 6-2 road loss to the Dodgers.