Until recently, A.J. Burnett's main problem was getting the first-place Pittsburgh Pirates to provide adequate run support to back his solid outings.
Burnett looks to bounce back from a couple of poor outings as he opposes Ross on Tuesday night at Petco Park.
After going 2-1 with a 1.89 ERA over seven starts from June 8-Aug. 4, Burnett (5-8, 3.18 ERA) has struggled over his last two. He gave up five earned runs and eight hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 6-4 loss to Colorado on Aug. 10 before allowing the same numbers in just 4 1-3 frames of the Pirates' 6-5, 12-inning loss to St. Louis on Thursday.
Manager Clint Hurdle , though, isn't worried about his right-hander, whose 3.38 run-support average is seventh-worst in the majors.
"There's some things we've tried to identify from the last start and from this start," manager Clint Hurdle said. "I know also he's a guy that's experienced everything there is in the game and he will be good and ready to take the ball the next time."
It may not get much better for Burnett give his recent history against the Padres. He allowed 29 runners to reach base in 12 innings over two starts versus San Diego last year, yielding four earned runs in each outing.
He walked five at Petco Park on Aug. 21, just his second start in San Diego since his nine-walk no-hitter in 2001 with the Marlins.
Pittsburgh (73-51) got the best of the Padres in Monday's series opener, though, winning 3-1 after dropping 18 of the previous 21 meetings. Pedro Alvarez hit his NL-best 31st homer as the Pirates, who had lost seven of their previous nine, maintained their one-game lead on St. Louis and 2 1/2-game edge on Cincinnati in the NL Central race.
Pittsburgh may find it tough to make it two straight victories when it faces Ross (3-5, 2.62).
Ross has been stellar since rejoining the rotation July 23, going 3-1 with a 1.32 ERA in five starts. He allowed one run and five hits in seven innings before San Diego fell 4-1 to the New York Mets on Thursday.
"I'm just trying to improve on what I did the previous outing and just try and do better," Ross said.
The right-hander has a 0.79 WHIP during his hot stretch while striking out 36 in 34 innings."He's throwing the ball great," manager Bud Black said. "I think he's really taken a lot of the instruction that he and (pitching coach) Darren (Balsley) are talking about as far as being able to locate the fastball, getting the slider in the strike zone and incorporating some changeups."
Ross, in his first season with the Padres after being acquired from Oakland in November, has never faced the Pirates.
San Diego (56-69), which has lost nine of 13, looks to provide some offense for Ross after going scoreless for the first eight innings Monday. Nick Hundley 's double drove in Chase Headley for the Padres' only run.
Headley, with only eight home runs and 35 RBIs after breaking out for 31 homers and 115 RBIs in 2012, is just 6 for 37 (.162) over his last nine.
|August 19, 2013||Starling Marte||Day-to-Day||Right hand contusion|
|August 11, 2013||Starling Marte||Day-to-Day||Left game - left hand|
|July 28, 2013||Travis Snider||15-Day DL||Left big toe discomfort|
|July 28, 2013||Michael McKenry||60-Day DL||Left knee surgery - out for season|
|July 23, 2013||Jason Grilli||15-Day DL||Strained right forearm|
|July 07, 2013||Neil Walker||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|San Diego Padres|
|July 31, 2013||Carlos Quentin||15-Day DL||Right knee strain|
|July 23, 2013||Carlos Quentin||Day-to-Day||Sore right wrist|
|July 20, 2013||Jason Marquis||60-Day DL||Strained right elbow|
|July 12, 2013||Kyle Blanks||15-Day DL||Left Achilles tendinitis|
|July 07, 2013||Yasmani Grandal||60-Day DL||Right knee sprain|
|June 22, 2013||Clayton Richard||60-Day DL||Left shoulder surgery - out for season|
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Until Tuesday night, the only time A.J. Burnett had beaten the San Diego Padres was on May 12, 2001, when he threw a no-hitter against them while with the Marlins.
"Was that the only time? There you go. You walk nine, you beat them every time," Burnett joked Tuesday night.
Twelve years after that erratic gem, Burnett pitched seven strong innings against the Padres and the Pittsburgh Pirates had six extra-base hits, including Neil Walker 's home run, to beat San Diego 8-1 Tuesday night.
"I had guys diving left and right behind me today and they were swinging the bat," said Burnett, who is now 2-5 against San Diego. "It's just fun to see everybody in this room contribute to what's going on right now. I'm glad I was part of it tonight."
Burnett (6-8) held San Diego to one run and four hits, struck out seven and walked one. He bounced back from two starts in which he allowed 10 earned runs and 16 hits in 10 innings.
The Pirates opened a two-game lead in the NL Central over St. Louis, which lost 6-3 at Milwaukee.
The Padres loaded the bases with two outs in the third before Burnett struck out Yonder Alonso .
"His sixth inning was as good as any he had all night, pitching to the middle of the lineup," manager Clint Hurdle said. "So we decided when he came in 3-1, he was going back out. He had pitches to work with. He was able to reboot tonight. He used all his pitches. Very good outing for him."
Burnett was backed by some nice defense. Left fielder Jose Tabata made a diving catch of Alexi Amarista 's sinking liner in the first. Third baseman Pedro Alvarez made a diving stop of Nick Hundley 's grounder in the second and Walker, the second baseman, made a diving stop of Jaff Decker 's grounder in the third.
Walker homered into the sandy play area beyond the fence in right-center on a 3-1 pitch from Tyson Ross with one out in the first. It was his eighth. Alvarez reached on second baseman Jedd Gyorko 's throwing error and Russell Martin followed with an RBI double to right.
Alvarez tripled in the third to bring in Walker, who was hit by a pitch leading off the inning.
Andrew McCutchen hit a two-run triple in the seventh. His fly ball landed just in front of diving center fielder Alexi Amarista and rolled into the gap in right-center. After Alvarez and Russell Martin walked, pinch-hitter Josh Harrison tripled to right-center to clear the bases and cap the five-run inning.
"All our hits were to the big part of the field," Hurdle said. "Couple balls were pulled to the gap. Everything else, big part of the field, opposite. That was big for us tonight. Something we've been talking about, something we've been working on. We were able to put it in play tonight."
The Padres have lost 10 of 14 and tied their season high by dropping 17 1/2 games behind the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers .
Gyorko homered to left on a 1-2 pitch from Burnett leading off the fourth, his 14th.
"I was able to get to him the one time but he did a good job of mixing his pitches," Gyorko said. "Sometimes you don't always get the read you want to on the ball."
Ross (3-6) allowed five runs, four earned, on six hits in 6 1-3 innings, struck out six and walked two.
"It was a tough game. It was a bit of a struggle executing pitches early," Ross said. "But I did my best to keep the team in it. But Burnett did a good job."
NOTES: The Pirates hit three triples for the third time this season. ... The series concludes Wednesday afternoon when Pirates RHP Gerrit Cole (6-5, 3.88 ERA) is scheduled to face RHP Ian Kennedy (4-9, 5.12 ERA). .... Pirates closer Jason Grilli , on the disabled list since July 23 with a strained right forearm, is improving, although there is no timetable for his return. "Jason is moving forward at a very good fashion," manager Clint Hurdle said. ... OF Starling Marte didn't start for the second straight game because of a bruise on his right hand. He was stepped on during a head-first slide against the Arizona Diamondbacks . ... LHP Wandy Rodriguez will throw live batting practice Thursday before the Pirates begin a four-game series in San Francisco. Rodriguez said he continued to feel discomfort in his left arm after a bullpen session Monday. He went on the disabled list June 11 (retroactive to June 6) with left forearm tightness.