A.J. Burnett has a chance to do something that no Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher has done in 21 years.
Burnett takes aim at his 16th victory of the season on Tuesday night in the second contest of a three-game series against the San Diego Padres and Jason Marquis, who threw a gem of his own against the Pirates just 10 days ago.
The 35-year-old Burnett had a four-start winning streak stopped with a shut out loss to the Padres on Aug. 11, allowing five runs -- four earned -- over 5 2/3 innings while striking out 10. He was outmatched by Marquis on that day as the Padres right-hander took a no-hitter into the seventh inning en route to a two-hit shutout.
Burnett also struggled in his next outing versus the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday, but the offense backed him to a 10-6 victory. The righty allowed six runs on seven hits over 6 2/3 frames, striking out seven while allowing two homers for a second straight start.
Still, Burnett improved to 15-4 with a 3.54 earned run average through 22 starts, becoming Pittsburgh's first 15-game winner since Todd Ritchie went 15-9 in 1999.
"He was laying it all out there," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle of Burnett, who is three wins shy of his career high of 18 set with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008.
Burnett is just 1-5 with a 4.84 ERA in six career starts versus the Padres, but if he can solve them on Tuesday he would become the first Pittsburgh pitcher to win more than 15 games in a season since 1991, when Zane Smith (16-10) and John Smiley (20-8) both did it.
Burnett will have to hope that Marquis doesn't throw another gem on what is his 34th birthday. His win over the Pirates was his fifth in six starts, but he followed that up with a loss to the Atlanta Braves on Thursday.
Marquis was touched for six runs, eight hits and three homers over 4 2/3 innings, walking four in the 6-0 setback. That dropped him to 6-7 with a 4.08 ERA in 14 starts with the Padres after opening the season 2-4 with an 8.47 ERA with the Minnesota Twins.
Marquis has won eight of his last 11 starts against the Pirates and is 13-7 with a 3.71 ERA versus them lifetime.
The Pirates should be better rested for this contest after dropping Monday's opener 3-1. Pittsburgh was playing one day after winning a 19-inning marathon in St. Louis.
San Diego starter Edinson Volquez took advantage and matched a season high with 10 strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings, scattering a run and five hits in his first victory since July 30.
"I made adjustments tonight and everything was working," Volquez said.
Will Venable had two hits and drove in a pair and Everth Cabrera went 3-for-5 with a run scored for the Padres, who have won two in a row on the heels of a five-game skid.
Kevin Correia, who pitched two innings of relief in Sunday's win, made the start and allowed three runs -- two earned -- on seven hits in 4 1/3 frames while taking the loss.
"I haven't even throw back-to-back days in the bullpen in over five years," Correia said. "I was surprised how well my arm and everything felt."
Neil Walker drove in the lone run for the Pirates, who have lost eight of their past 12 overall and fell to 3-16 against the Padres dating back to Sept. 19, 2009.
Pittsburgh remained 6 1/2 games behind the first-place Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central and a half-game up on the Dodgers for the second wild card spot.