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ARI@PIT: Morton hurls seven frames of two-run ball

Past Pirates seasons have gone to die on their dreaded West Coast swings. But thus far, this month's seven-game trip has seemingly breathed new life into the first-place Bucs.

They entered the week 28-54 since 2007 against National League West opponents, but on Friday, Pittsburgh could clinch a winning road trip with a victory over the Giants at AT&T Park.

Locked in the middle of baseball's hottest pennant race, the Pirates hold a one-game lead on the second-place Cardinals, and they sit 2 1/2 games up on the Reds entering play Friday.

Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner, who has become the staff's ace this season, will be looking to put a dent in the Pirates' NL Central hopes. He struggled in his most recent start Sunday against Miami, but he has a 2.40 ERA and a sub-one WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) in 11 home starts.

Bumgarner (11-7, 2.82 ERA) hasn't lasted into the sixth in either of his past two starts, and the last time he did -- Aug. 7 against Milwaukee -- he allowed four runs in seven innings and took the loss.

But after his most recent outing, in which he allowed four runs on five hits and four walks, Bumgarner was optimistic that he isn't too far off his All-Star form.

"It just seemed like every pitch I threw was just a hair off," Bumgarner said.

Opposite Bumgarner will be Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton, who is trending in the opposite direction. He has allowed just two runs in each of his past three starts and lasted at least six innings in all of them.

Morton (4-3, 3.67 ERA) has posted a 34-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his past seven starts.

Offensively, Morton and the Pirates will get a boost from the red-hot Andrew McCutchen, who continues to state his case for the NL Most Valuable Player Award. On Thursday, McCutchen posted his 13th multi-hit game in 20 games this month. He's hitting .441 in August.

Pirates: Grilli on the mend
Closer Jason Grilli threw 25 pain-free pitches in bullpen Thursday, marking his first time back on a mound since he strained a tendon in his right forearm July 22.

"Now it's just fine-tuning and getting the strength back to be game-ready, and I think that'll happen before the end of the month," Grilli said.

At the time of the injury, Grilli's 30 saves led the National League. He was named to his first All-Star Game in July.

Giants: Torres hits DL
San Francisco outfielder Andres Torres was placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday with a left Achilles tendon strain.

It's the same Achilles that Torres injured in the early part of the 2011 season. Two years later, he has a bone spur in the afflicted area, making the pain even more agonizing.

"You want to play at 100 percent," Torres said. "You don't want to play at 80 percent. That's why my defense hasn't been the best."

Worth noting
• McCutchen is hitless with two strikeouts in six at-bats against Bumgarner. Something will have to give, however, as McCutchen is riding a nine-game hitting streak against San Francisco.

• Since the All-Star break, the Giants' offense has mustered just 47 runs in 21 games at AT&T Park.

• Pittsburgh second baseman Neil Walker has posted a .397 lifetime average in 68 at-bats against the Giants.

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