Pirates head to San Diego following marathon win

A 19th-inning loss last season put the Pittsburgh Pirates in a funk that ultimately led to them posting their 19th straight losing season.

Perhaps a 19-inning victory can lead to different results for the Pirates, who trudge into San Diego on Monday for the opener of a three-game series against the Padres.

A season ago, the Pirates were 53-47 heading into a July 26th meeting with Atlanta, one that ended with a 4-3 defeat after the Braves scored the winning run following a blown call at home by umpire Jerry Meals, who appeared to miss a tag at the plate.

That setback started a 1-12 skid for the Pirates, who finished the season at 72-90.

Pittsburgh brings a 67-54 mark into this opener after a 6-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday. The Pirates went ahead in the 6-hour, 7-minute marathon on Pedro Alvarez's solo homer in the 19th inning. They tacked on two more runs in the frame on Andrew McCutchen's single and Wandy Rodriguez hurled a scoreless bottom of the frame -- his second inning of work -- for the win.

"We kept playing defense, we kept pitching. At the end of the day, we finally got some separation in the 19th inning," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

The victory has the Pirates a game up on the San Francisco Giants and two ahead of the Cardinals for the second wild card spot in the NL.

Pittsburgh now aims at a fourth win in five games. Rodriguez was slated to go in this opener, but his first relief stint since Oct. 1, 2006 made him unavailable.

Kevin Correia, who threw two innings of relief on Sunday, will instead get the start. Correia threw 24 pitches yesterday. He's the first Pirate since Pascual Perez in 1981 to appear in relief then start the next day.

Correia's career-high seven-game winning sterak came to an end in an 11-0 defeat to the Dodgers on Aug. 14. He's 3-2 with a 4.89 ERA in 21 games (7 starts) all-time against the Padres.

The Padres know that Edinson Volquez will start this game and are hoping he can shake off his recent slump that has seen him go 0-2 in three starts with a 16.62 earned run average.

The righty yielded six runs over 3 1/3 frames in a no-decision against the Pirates on Aug. 10, then yielded another six runs on seven hits over 3 2/3 innings of a loss at Atlanta on Wednesday.

All told, Volquez has given up 16 runs over 8 2/3 innings in his past three starts and has a 10.02 ERA in five appearances since a one-hit shutout on July 19 versus the Houston Astros.

"I used to go deep in the game and now in the last three starts it's kind of short. I'm going to fix it," Volquez said.

The 29-year-old is 7-9 with a 4.31 ERA in 25 starts this season and 1-0 with a 4.60 ERA in eight career meetings with Pittsburgh.

San Diego snapped a five-game slide with a 7-1 win over the visiting Giants on Sunday. Everth Cabrera had three hits and drove in two runs, while Cameron Maybin went 4-for-5 and had three RBI to fuel a 16-hit attack.

Clayton Richard tossed eight strong innings for the win, allowing five hits and one unearned run.

The Padres have won 15 of their last 18 encounters with the Pirates.