SAN DIEGO -- The Pittsburgh Pirates are putting a bow on their nine-game road trip with a Sunday matinee against the San Diego Padres.
Maybe a win before flying back home can ease the pain of their losing excursion. The Pirates are 2-6 as they have been pushed around by three National League West teams: Colorado Rockies (1-2), San Francisco Giants (1-2) andPadres (0-2).
The Padres have won four straight. The Pirates have not only lost four in a row but six of their past seven.
But the Pirates won't leave San Diego without employing one of their best pitchers. Right-hander Gerrit Cole (8-7, 4.12 ERA) gets the nod and that can't be good news for the Padres.
Against San Diego, Cole is 3-1 with a 1.52 ERA in four career starts. The last time he pitched at Petco Park he threw six innings of scoreless ball last August in a win.
Cole has been winning of late, riding a surge that has seen him go 5-1 with a 3.04 ERA in his last eight starts.
"I think his stuff has been sharp," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "You take the one month (out of his season) where there was some challenges, where balls were just getting hit and they didn't miss. But outside of that, his stuff has played."
His last two starts have been solid.
Cole beat the Giants on Monday by throwing six innings of two-run ball. In his previous start, he struck out a season-high 10 batters on July 19 against the Milwaukee Brewers. He didn't receive a decision despite allowing but one run in seven innings.
"He's been in the bottom of the zone, he's been finishing with velocity," Hurdle said. "It's been spin with the slider and his changeup has played to both sides. He's been really good."
The Padres will counter with Clayton Richard (5-11, 5.37 ERA). The left-hander gave up 12 hits and five runs in eight innings against New York Mets on Monday in his most recent start.
But Padres manager Andy Green noted that the Padres were basically down to 22 players the day Richard pitched and that included a short bullpen.
"He gave us what we need that day with 122 pitches," Green said. "He probably pitched longer that he should have, but he went out there and ate up an extra inning for us."
Some are surprised that Richard is still in a Padres uniform. The Padres have moved pitchers Brandon Maurer, Trevor Cahill and Ryan Buchter, and Richard was mentioned has a candidate to be peddled at the trading deadline. It still could happen before Monday.
But on Sunday, Richard will face the Pirates for the ninth time and for the fourth as a starter. He is 2-1 with a 2.01 ERA in those eight games, but this will be his first appearance against Pittsburgh this season.
Richard will try to keep the ball low with his sinker and make his infielders work. Richard has induced a league-best 247 ground balls this season.
"He has no fear," Green said. "He'll compete and execute his pitches. He does that every time out."