After a painful defeat that extended their home losing streak to the San Diego Padres, the Pittsburgh Pirates seem to have the right man taking the ball to deliver a win.
The Pirates, who are undefeated with A.J. Burnett on the mound at PNC Park, try to avoid losing their 11th consecutive home game to the Padres on Saturday night.
Pittsburgh (63-49) appeared to be in good shape in Friday's series opener, leading 7-1 after four innings, but the Padres (50-64) roared back with six runs in the fifth. The Pirates retook the lead in the sixth on Rod Barajas' RBI single, but San Diego rallied again in the seventh on Chase Headley's two-run homer - his second of the game - and went on to win 9-8 for its fifth straight victory.
The game ended on a bit of a sour note for San Diego, as closer Huston Street strained his right calf on the final play after converting his 21st save in as many opportunities.
"I hope I'm wrong but my premonition is that he's going to be out for a while,'' manager Bud Black said.
The unfortunate finish took some of the shine away from another big game from Headley, who homered from both sides of the plate for the first time in his career and drove in five runs. He is batting .383 with five home runs and 16 RBIs in his last 13 games.
Although Pittsburgh is a major league-best 35-19 at home, and San Diego owns baseball's fifth-worst road record at 23-34, Friday's loss shouldn't have been too surprising for the Pirates. They've lost 10 straight at PNC Park to the Padres since Sept. 18, 2009, their longest active home losing streak to any opponent as well as San Diego's longest active road winning streak over any foe.
"I don't know the exact reason why but we always seem to play our best baseball here,'' said Headley, who is batting .371 with four homers and 14 RBIs during the winning streak at Pittsburgh.
The Pirates would appear to have a good shot at ending the slide behind Burnett (14-3, 3.19 ERA), considering they've won all 10 of his home starts.
The right-hander also has compiled a 1.38 ERA in winning his last four starts overall since a 4-1 loss to Milwaukee on July 15, Pittsburgh's only defeat in his last 17 outings. He's been credited with 13 of those wins to go with a 2.54 ERA in that span, and his last two victories have come after Pittsburgh defeats.
"I just want to win whatever it takes," said Burnett, who is trying to become the franchise's first 15-game winner since Todd Ritchie in 1999. "If it's my day it's my responsibility.''
After tossing a one-hitter against the Chicago Cubs on July 31, Burnett nearly threw another complete game Sunday in Cincinnati. He permitted two runs, three hits and three walks while striking out seven in 8 2-3 innings of a 6-2 win.
Burnett threw a no-hitter against the Padres back in 2001, but has posted a 9.00 ERA while losing two starts against them since, and hasn't faced them since 2005.
San Diego counters with Jason Marquis (5-6, 4.10), who gave up three runs in 6 1-3 innings of Sunday's 7-3 win over the New York Mets. This will be his first start against the Pirates since being shelled for seven runs in 1 1-3 innings of a 10-2 loss for Washington on July 3, 2011.