Pirates-Padres Preview

While Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison lead the way offensively, the Pittsburgh Pirates' outstanding work on the mound is helping them stay on a roll against the San Diego Padres.

As the All-Stars look to pad two of MLB's best stretches at the plate, Jeff Locke will try to extend his 10 2-3 scoreless innings streak as the visiting Pirates go for a ninth win in 10 games Sunday night.

Pittsburgh (26-23) batted .319 while averaging 6.6 runs during a seven-game winning streak that included Thursday's series-opening 11-5 victory before managing six hits in Friday's 6-2 loss.

The Pirates then scored three times through the first eight innings Saturday before breaking the game open with a two-run ninth in a 5-2 victory. McCutchen, who went 2 for 3 with two walks, delivered the key blow with an RBI double.

The 2013 NL MVP was hitting .188 on May 6, but is batting .380 with five home runs and 17 RBIs in 22 games since to raise his average to 86 points. He's also hitting a major league-best .459 in 10 games since May 20.

Harrison leads all of baseball with a .435 average in 14 games since May 14. The third baseman went 2 for 5 Saturday after missing one game due to a sore shoulder suffered while sliding in the opener.

Pittsburgh starters have contributed to the team's hot streak by posting a 1.66 ERA over the last nine games. Charlie Morton provided the latest gem, allowing one earned run and three hits over seven innings.

Locke (3-2, 4.70 ERA) appears poised to continue the trend after overcoming four walks in 5 2-3 scoreless innings of a 5-1 win over visiting Miami on Tuesday. He had blanked Minnesota over his final five innings in a 4-3, 13-inning home loss May 20.

"He made pitches when he had to," manager Clint Hurdle told MLB's official website. "No inning got away from him."

In his only career start versus San Diego in September 2013, Locke allowed four runs over five innings.

Jedd Gyorko went 2 for 3 with a three-run home run facing the left-hander in that contest. The second baseman went 2 for 3 with a walk Friday, but he's just 3 for 20 over his last 10.

Matt Kemp is 3 for 5 with a double off Locke dating to his time with the Dodgers, while Justin Upton has gone 3 for 7 with two homers going back to his days in Atlanta. Upton and Will Middlebrooks had one hit - an Upton ninth-inning single - in seven at-bats Saturday after they had gone a combined 20 for 47 in the previous six.

The Padres (24-27) hope to provide runs for Odrisamer Despaigne as they try to avoid an eighth loss in 10 home games.

Despaigne (2-3, 5.23) is coming off his best outing Tuesday when he gave up five hits over six innings in a 4-0 road win over the Los Angeles Angels. Since going 0-2 with a 16.88 ERA in his first two starts since returning to the rotation, the right-hander is 0-1 with a 1.50 mark over his last two while receiving no runs of support.

"He's had some buzz (velocity) lately," manager Bud Black said.

Despaigne has a 2.70 ERA in 11 career home starts as he faces Pittsburgh for the first time.


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