The Pittsburgh Pirates are once again trailing in the NL Central in part because of their recent struggles at home against the San Diego Padres.
The Pirates are hoping a matchup with right-hander Tyson Ross will not only give them a boost in the division race Wednesday night but also help them earn only their second win in the last 15 matchups with the Padres at PNC Park.
Pittsburgh (87-64) entered this four-game series tied with St. Louis atop the Central and maintained a share of first place Monday despite registering one hit in a 2-0 defeat to the Padres (70-80). The Pirates weren't as fortunate after a 5-2 loss Tuesday.
Jedd Gyorko helped drop Pittsburgh one game behind the Cardinals and 1 1/2 ahead of third-place Cincinnati with an early three-run homer. The win was San Diego's 30th in 40 all-time games at PNC, which opened in 2001.
"Everybody's aware of where we are, what's going on," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "At the end of the day, we had a couple of opportunities we didn't maximize on."
The Padres, winners in 10 of 14, might have a challenge as they try to continue that dominance in Pittsburgh and earn a season-high fourth straight road victory behind Ross (3-8, 3.29 ERA). The right-hander is 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA in his last five starts and didn't make it out of the first inning in a 10-5 loss in Philadelphia on Thursday.
Ross gave up six runs, five hits and two walks while recording just two outs.
"It wasn't a good outing by me at all," Ross told the team's website. "I wasn't able to minimize the damage and (manager Bud Black) had to come out in the first."
He started his losing streak by allowing five runs over 6 1-3 innings in an 8-1 defeat to Pittsburgh on Aug. 20, his only matchup with the Pirates.
While his teammates try to hand Ross another loss, Charlie Morton (7-4, 3.54) will seek to earn a third straight home win and try to improve to 3-0 lifetime against the Padres, whom he has not faced since 2009.
Morton is 0-1 with a 10.80 ERA in his last two starts but much of that damage came from a shortened outing in St. Louis on Sept. 8. He gave up five runs over 1 2-3 innings before being forced to leave with plantar fasciitis in his left heel.
Morton appeared healthier in his solid effort against the visiting Chicago Cubs on Friday, allowing three runs and four hits over five frames. The right-hander, owner of a 2.45 ERA in his last four home starts, was denied the win when the Pirates bullpen blew a one-run lead in a 5-4 defeat.
"Morton had to grind one out tonight," Hurdle told the team's website. "I think he went out there with intent and purpose."
Nick Hundley has two doubles in five at_bats against Morton. Chase Headley and Mark Kotsay are each 2 for 5 versus the right-hander.
Russell Martin has two doubles in four at_bats against Ross.
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