The Pittsburgh Pirates arrive in San Diego a bit exhausted and uncertain who'll be their starting pitcher in the series opener to face a Padres team that has historically given them trouble.
Despite these seemingly glaring disadvantages, they're in high spirits.
After outlasting a team right on their heels in the wild-card race to win the majors' longest game of the year, the Pirates hope to ride the momentum into Monday night's opener with the Padres, who are going for their 16th victory in the last 19 meetings in the series.
In a season filled with encouraging victories for a Pirates franchise seeking its first playoff berth since 1992, Sunday's 6-3, 19-inning win over St. Louis might have been its biggest. Pedro Alvarez homered in the 19th and two more runs came around on an Andrew McCutchen single for the Pirates (67-54), who took two of three from the Cardinals to move two games ahead of their division rival in the race for the league's last wild-card spot.
Wandy Rodriguez, the eighth pitcher used by the Pirates, threw two scoreless innings to earn the win. A problem with that, however, is he was scheduled to start Monday.
Before leaving for San Diego, Clint Hurdle said he had yet to select a starting pitcher to replace him.
Hurdle is also hoping to come up with a way to beat the Padres (53-70), something they've struggled with mightily over the past few seasons.
Pittsburgh won for only the third time in 18 meetings with an 11-5 victory over San Diego last Sunday at PNC Park to snap a five-game losing streak in the series.
Although the Pirates haven't enjoyed much success lately against San Diego, they could have better luck facing Edinson Volquez (7-9, 4.31 ERA) again.
Volquez has a 13.83 ERA in his last four starts - causing his ERA to jump from 3.30 - and hasn't made it out of the fourth inning in any of his three games this month.
He didn't fare too well against the Pirates on Aug. 10, though, yielding six runs and seven hits in 3 1-3 innings, but the Padres rallied for a 9-8 win. McCutchen was 0 for 2 against Volquez, while Travis Snider had a three-run homer and Garrett Jones had a solo shot.
Clayton Richard's 2011 season ended in July when he had arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder to clear an impingement and clean up the labrum.
Less than 13 months later, Richard leads the National League with 26 starts and 176 innings pitched.
Richard on Sunday held the Giants to an unearned run on five hits over eight innings. He retired 20 of the last 24 hitters he faced, including the last seven in a row.
Even though he gave up five runs on nine hits in 6 1/3 innings Tuesday night in Atlanta, Richard is 3-1 over his last five starts with a 2.02 ERA.
And Richard wasn't "100 percent" at the start of Sunday's game. "Once he got his second wind, he rolled," said Padres manager Bud Black. "It always starts with the starting pitcher. A lot of guys contributed. It was a great team win. But Clayton set the tone."
"John Baker and the defense kept me in this one," said Richard, who, as usual, spread the credit to everyone in the clubhouse after becoming the first Padres pitcher to reach 10 wins this season.
Before the game, Black said he was "impressed" by Richard's efforts this season "but not surprised."
"From a fitness standpoint, Clayton might be as good as anyone I've ever been around," said Black. "After his surgery, there was a lot of work that had to be done to fully prepare to come back. Given Clayton's work ethic, I'm sure nothing was ever missed or skipped.
"And he's been extremely honest with us. There's been precedent before of guys coming back like he has. But if you had to pick one guy who you knew could do it, it would be Clayton."
RHP Ross Ohlendorf, 30, the Padres' No. 5 starter since the All-Star break, was optioned to Triple-A Tucson on Saturday after giving up eight runs on six hits and two walks in just 2 1/3 innings against the Giants on Friday night. Ohlendorf was 1-3 in his last four starts with a 14.54 ERA (21 runs in 13 innings). He reached the fourth inning in only one of those four starts.
RHP Tim Stauffer, who made only one start in 2012 because of a flexor tendon injury to his right elbow, will not pitch again this season and is considering surgery on the elbow. Stauffer missed all of 2008 following shoulder surgery.
3B Chase Headley, who leads the major leagues with eight homers and 24 RBI in August, was ejected between the fourth and fifth innings Sunday by plate umpire Brian O'Nora after questioning O'Nora's strike zone. It was the second ejection of Headley's career. "I tried to talk to him at the plate," said Headley. "It wasn't just one pitch. It was multiple pitches over multiple at-bats. I knew exactly what I was doing. I knew I was going to be ejected. I have no regrets. It fired us up. It makes me feel better that we won."
CF Cameron Maybin had three four-hit games last year in his first season with the Padres. His four-hit game Sunday was his first of the season and raised his average from .211 to .219. He drove in three of the seven runs scored by the Padres. Maybin was 2-for-2 with runners in scoring position. Maybin is hitting .311 (19-for-61) in RISP situations over his last 67 games since May 24.
SS Everth Cabrera saw 30 pitches in three at-bats against Giants RHP Ryan Vogelsong and went 2-for-3 with a strikeout. The three at-bats went 13, 7 and 10 pitches. Cabrera was 3-for-5 for the game with a two-run double.
By The Numbers:
.354—1B Yonder Alonso's batting average while hitting safely in 17 or his last 21 games.
Quote To Note:
"That gave us the momentum. Cabby game back from that battle and we're all giving him 'Way to gos.' That was a great at-bat by him. And we fed off it. After eight or nine pitches, you could tell Vogelsong was frustrated. A couple pitches later, he was mad."
—Padres 1B Yonder Alonso, talking about the importance of the game-opening 13-pitch battle between Giants RHP Ryan Vogelsong and Padres leadoff man Everth Cabrera before Cabrera struck out.