50-64
9 - 8
63-49

Padres-Pirates Preview

AP - Sports

Based on how they've performed at PNC Park coupled with San Diego's play on the road, the Pittsburgh Pirates should be able to end their lengthy home losing streak to the Padres.

Of course, if scheduled starter James McDonald's struggles continue, another defeat could be imminent.

McDonald again hopes to break out of his second-half funk and help the Pirates avoid losing a 10th straight home game to San Diego in Friday night's series opener.

Pittsburgh (63-48) lost 6-3 to Arizona on Thursday, but it's still in control of the NL's second wild-card spot thanks largely to a major league-best 35-18 home record. It has lost only one of its last 10 series at PNC Park and is one victory away from matching last season's win total there.

The Padres (49-64), meanwhile, own the majors' fifth-worst road record at 22-34, and have lost five of six away from San Diego.

Despite their recent road woes, they've been quite comfortable playing in Pittsburgh.

The Pirates have been outscored 72-25 in losing their last nine home games against the Padres since a 5-1 win Sept. 18, 2009. This is Pittsburgh's longest active home losing streak against a single opponent, and San Diego's longest current road winning streak over any foe.

The Padres' three-game sweep at PNC Park last Aug. 5-7 - the most recent meetings between these teams - capped a 10-game losing streak for the Pirates and effectively ended their postseason hopes.

The catalyst behind Pittsburgh's playoff push this year is Andrew McCutchen, the majors' batting leader with a .369 average. He has hit .417 in his last 13 home games and is 4 for 8 with a homer, a triple and a double lifetime against scheduled San Diego starter Edinson Volquez (7-8, 3.73 ERA).

McDonald (10-5, 3.42) was also instrumental to Pittsburgh's first-half success, posting a 2.37 ERA before the All-Star break with the Pirates winning 12 of his 17 starts. He has a 7.76 ERA in five outings since, with Pittsburgh losing four times.

Against Cincinnati on Saturday, he gave up four runs and seven hits in six innings of the Pirates' 5-4 loss. One bright spot for the right-hander, though, was that he only walked one after issuing 19 bases on balls in 20 2-3 innings over his previous four outings.

This will be his first start against the Padres since allowing two runs in six innings of a 4-3 road win May 2, 2011.

San Diego opens a seven-game road trip riding a four-game winning streak after beating the Chicago Cubs 2-0 on Wednesday to complete a three-game sweep.

Chase Headley, the team leader with 15 homers and 62 RBIs, is batting .385 with three home runs and 11 RBIs over his last 11 games. He is also hitting .355 with two homers, five doubles and nine RBIs during the winning streak in Pittsburgh.

Volquez, who has a 2.16 ERA in three career starts at PNC Park, is hoping to be healed from a blister that caused him trouble in Saturday's 6-2 loss to the New York Mets. The right-hander was done after 1 2-3 innings, allowing four runs, two hits and four walks - increasing his major league-worst total to 80 bases on balls.

"His mechanics were out of whack, as much as I've seen him this season," manager Bud Black said.

Volquez now has a 12.15 ERA in his last two starts after going 3-0 with a 1.55 ERA in his previous six.

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