Pirates hope to stay atop division, open set with Padres

The Pittsburgh Pirates look to stay atop the National League Central when they open a four-game series versus the San Diego Padres Monday at PNC Park.

The Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals are deadlocked atop the division, while Pittsburgh leads the NL wild card race. The Pirates have won six of their last seven games and just took three of four matchups with the Chicago Cubs.

In Sunday's 3-2 win, pinch-hitter Justin Morneau stroked a go-ahead RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning and relief pitcher Mark Melancon took care of the Cubs in the ninth for his 16th save.

Francisco Liriano got the start for the Buccos and allowed two runs and three hits in six innings. Tony Sanchez homered and Marlon Byrd had a team-best two hits for Pittsburgh. Byrd and Morneau were added to the mix to help the Pirates in their pursuit of a playoff berth.

"They've impacted our flow and they've impacted our lineup," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Morneau and Byrd. "We had a good team coming into the point where the deals were made to bring these guys in and they made us stronger."

Hurdle will hand the ball to A.J. Burnett versus the Padres on Monday and he is 8-10 with a 3.45 ERA in 27 starts. Burnett has alternated wins and losses over his last 10 decisions and is coming off Wednesday's 7-5 win at Texas in which he allowed five runs in 6 1/3 innings. Burnett has given up 10 runs in his last two starts.

The right-hander hasn't lost at home since May 13 and has made eight career starts against the Padres, going 2-5 with a 4.44 ERA.

San Diego won two of three games in Atlanta this past weekend and recorded a 4-0 win in Sunday's series finale.

Padres starter Burch Smith took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and hurled seven shutout frames, allowing three hits with 10 strikeouts and two walks for his first Major League win.

"It's good to get that one out of the way. I don't have that hanging over my head anymore," Smith said of his first win. "It's a good team win. Good defense, a lot of guys stepped up at the plate."

Tommy Medica added a solo homer, while Will Venable had three hits and scored a run for the Padres, winners in eight of their last 12 games. Venable has six hits in his last four games.

The Padres, who are 3-3 on a 10-game eastern trek, will send Andrew Cashner to the mound Monday and he is 9-8 with a 3.40 earned run average in 29 games, 24 of which have been starts, this season. Cashner was 0-3 in his previous five starts until he defeated Philadelphia last Tuesday with 7 2/3 innings of two- run ball and seven K's. He has fanned seven batters in three straight and four of five starts.

Cashner has faced Pittsburgh five times (1 start) in his career and is a lowly 0-3 with a solid 1.80 ERA across 10 innings pitched.

San Diego lost a three-game series versus the Pirates from Aug. 19-21 at Petco Park. The Padres went 5-1 against Pittsburgh last season.