Padres-Pirates Preview

The Associated Press

With A.J. Burnett back on the mound at PNC Park, the Pittsburgh Pirates hope to continue taking advantage of an eight-game home stretch against a pair of losing clubs.

The Pirates look for their sixth straight win in Burnett's home starts Monday night when they try to beat the San Diego Padres for just the fourth time in 20 meetings there.

After taking three of four against the last-place Cubs by winning 3-2 on Sunday, Pittsburgh (87-62) aims to stay on top in the NL Central by winning the opener of this four-game set with the Padres (68-80). The Pirates remained in a tie for first place following St. Louis' win over Seattle.

Pinch-hitter Justin Morneau, acquired from Minnesota on Aug. 31, singled in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning for his first RBI with the Pirates.

"I wish it would have happened a week-and-a-half ago, but I'm glad it happened when it did," said Morneau, who is batting .279 (12 for 43) with Pittsburgh. "It's just nice to contribute.''

Now they'll go for their seventh win in eight games by giving the ball to Burnett (8-10, 3.45 ERA), who should feel confident about bouncing back from a couple of rough outings.

Although he allowed 10 runs and 12 hits over 9 1-3 innings in his last two road starts, the right-hander has gone 2-0 with a 1.94 ERA in his last six outings at home.

Burnett struck out seven while allowing one run and four hits over seven innings in an 8-1 win in San Diego on Aug. 20. The Pirates held the Padres to four runs while winning two of three in that series.

Jedd Gyorko homered off Burnett to account for the Padres' lone tally in their meeting, though that's his only hit in 12 at-bats against Pittsburgh.

Teammate Chase Headley looks to extend his homer streak to four consecutive games, and he has four home runs in his last five at PNC Park while driving in 15 runs.

The Padres hope to continue their dominance in Pittsburgh, having won 16 of 19 there since the 2007 season. They'll also try to build on Sunday's 4-0 victory that gave them a series win at NL East-leading Atlanta.

Andrew Cashner (9-8, 3.40) hasn't given up more than three earned runs in his last 10 starts, going 4-4 with a 2.78 ERA. That includes a 3-1 loss to the Pirates on Aug. 19 when he allowed three runs - one earned - and five hits over seven innings.

"I feel stronger than I was at the beginning of the year,'' Cashner said. "In the beginning of the year, I was coming off thumb surgery. I felt like I was just trying to stay healthy. But I felt like once the All-Star break hit, it was lay it all down on the line and let's go.''

NL home run leader Pedro Alvarez went 2 for 3 with a homer off Cashner in last month's meeting, but he's 4 for 34 with one home run in his last nine home games.

All-Star Andrew McCutchen is batting .333 during a seven-game hitting streak against the Padres. He's also batting a major league-best .401 in his last 40 games overall.

What to Read Next