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National League Preview from The Sports Network



Wednesday, August 22nd (All times Eastern)

Pittsburgh Pirates (67-56) at San Diego Padres (55-70), 6:35 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Pittsburgh - James McDonald (11-5, 3.61) San Diego - Andrew Werner (0-0, 0.00)

(Sports Network) - For the Pittsburgh Pirates, Thursday's off day can't come soon enough.

First, though, the playoff hopefuls try to avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of the San Diego Padres in Wednesday's finale.

The Pirates have dropped a pair of two-run contests to the Padres following a 19-inning victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday. Tuesday's games also went to extra innings, but didn't go in Pittsburgh's favor.

Garret Jones had provided some heroics for the Pirates when his second homer of the game -- a two-run shot -- tied the game in the ninth inning. However, the spoiler-happy Padres got a two-run homer of their own from Chase Headley in the bottom of the 10th inning.

"We don't want to go out there and give any games away," Padres outfielder Cameron Maybin said. "It's fun making it tough on people who are trying to accomplish something that's tough to do and that's make it to the playoffs."

Maybin went 4-for-4, while Will Venable added four hits, an RBI and three runs scored in San Diego's third straight win following five consecutive defeats.

The Pirates, meanwhile, have lost nine of their last 13 overall and fell to 3-17 in their last 20 versus the Padres. They put themselves in an early hole on Tuesday, falling behind 2-0 in the first, and that is something manager Clint Hurdle would like to avoid.

"The one thing that's continued to get us is the first-inning runs we're giving up," Hurdle said. "That has continued to be a little problematic and 0-2 base hits. It happened to us a couple more times tonight."

Pittsburgh fell 7 1/2 games behind the first-place Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central and are just a half-game up on the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cardinals for the second wild card spot.

Hurdle turns to James McDonald for this finale and the right-hander snapped a four-start winless streak (0-2) with a victory over the Cardinals on Friday. He threw six scoreless innings of a 2-1 win, allowing two hits and three walks with seven strikeouts.

"I just told myself I'm doing this for my teammates and me, just to go out there and have fun," said McDonald about snapping his losing skid. "Don't worry about what other people say, just go out there and compete and play the game of baseball. I don't need the extra distractions to make it harder than what it is."

The 27-year-old's victory came seven days after he previous start, a no- decision against the Padres in which he failed to hold a 7-1 lead by giving up seven runs over 4 1/3 frames. He is 1-1 with a 7.78 earned run average lifetime against the Padres in seven games, including four starts.

McDonald is 11-5 with a 3.61 ERA in 24 starts on the season and is one strikeout away from 400 in his career. He is also closing in on the career- high 142 he fanned a season ago.

Countering for the Padres will be left-hander Andrew Werner, a non-drafted free agent who will be making his major league debut.

In his second season in the minors, Werner went 4-8 with a 3.23 ERA in 18 starts at Double-A before getting promoted up a level. He is 1-2 in four starts with Triple-A Tucson with a 5.79 ERA.

The 25-year-old replaces Ross Ohlendorf in the rotation and becomes the 14th different starter used by San Diego this season.

08/22 10:33:27 ET

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