MLB

Pirates hope momentum is shifting as Padres come to town

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Pirates will attempt to swing their momentum back in a positive direction when the San Diego Padres visit PNC Park to start a three-game series Friday.

Despite winning 6-0 Thursday against the Cincinnati Reds, the Pirates (52-56) have lost eight of their past 11 games since capping a six-game winning streak with a 13-5 win on July 21. That win moved Pittsburgh to one game above .500 (49-48) for the first time since April 10 and two games back of the National League Central lead.

Three straight series losses to the Colorado Rockies, Padres and Cincinnati Reds have since diminished Pittsburgh's playoff chances. The Pirates are 5 1/2 games behind the division-leading Chicago Cubs.

Left fielder Starling Marte could help Pittsburgh turn things around if he continues to contribute the way he did against Cincinnati on Thursday. He was 3-for-5 with three runs in the Pirates' win.

Center fielder Andrew McCutchen and third baseman David Freese also impressed with two RBIs each. First baseman Josh Bell extended his RBI streak to four games and second baseman Adam Frazier went 2-for-4.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle hopes to get more of the same out of his offense Friday.

"They were able to bundle the at-bats together individually," Hurdle said. "It started with Marte tonight. Good swing after good swing. … Really saw the ball well. Good timing. Barrell showed up. He's a difference maker for us when he gets on at the top of the lineup.

"Five guys together doing what they do. Took what the pitchers gave us. It was good hitting."

San Diego (48-59) will look to continue its recent surge, despite losing two of its past three games. Before that slight dip, the Padres had won seven of their previous 10 games, including the first two of a three-game series against the Pirates.

Even with that impressive run, San Diego remains fourth in the National League West, behind the Colorado Rockies and ahead of the San Francisco Giants.

Pittsburgh will send right-handed pitcher Ivan Nova (10-8, 3.75 ERA) to the mound in an attempt to slow its recent slide. He has struggled his last two times out, going just five innings in each and allowing a combined 11 runs in two losses.

Nova's last start also came against San Diego, which scored four runs off him on eight hits in five innings. The Padres won that game 10-8 on July 29 at Petco Park.

San Diego will counter with left-hander Travis Wood (2-3, 6.42), who defeated Pittsburgh in his Padres debut on July 28. In that 3-2 win, Wood allowed two runs on two hits with seven strikeouts in six innings.

"I'm just taking this opportunity as a fresh start, to come here and don't think about anything that's happened this season," Wood said after that start, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. "Just come in and put in work and do anything I can to help this young ballclub out that seems to have a lot of passion and loves to play and loves to win."

The Padres acquired Wood from the Kansas City Royals on July 24.