For the first time since July 30, the Pirates will enter play Sunday without sole possession of first place in the National League Central. Instead, they start the day locked in a tie atop the division with the surging Cardinals.
Thus, the Pirates on Sunday will look to secure a series victory -- and avoid potentially dropping out of first place for the first time this month -- when they finish out a four-game series against the Giants. Pittsburgh opened the set with back-to-back victories and, even with Saturday's loss, enters the series finale with a 4-2 record on its seven-game West Coast swing.
Hoping to rebound from Saturday's loss, the Pirates will turn to veteran right-hander A.J. Burnett, who did some rebounding of his own in his last outing. After allowing five earned runs in consecutive starts on Aug. 10 and Aug. 15, Burnett on Tuesday limited the Padres to just one run off four hits over seven solid innings.
"He was able to reboot," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He used all his pitches. First-pitch strikes got him in a good place. The swing-and-miss breaking ball was there, and he even gave them a few looks at the change. A very good outing for him."
Burnett will be tasked with facing a Giants lineup that experienced a rare home surge in Saturday's 6-3 victory. The six runs were the most scored by the Giants at AT&T Park since July 9, and it marked just the second time since May 29 that they managed more than five tallies.
It's a problem that has plagued San Francisco all year, as the Giants average just 3.41 runs per game at home compared to 4.2 on the road.
"I wish I had a good reason why we haven't scored much here," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "Sure, it's more of a pitcher's park. At the same time, the difference is pretty dramatic. The power numbers are down, and when that happens you need to do a better job getting those timely hits, and we haven't been doing that."
Pirates: Marte lands on the DL
Though it appeared Starling Marte was on the verge of a return late last week, the outfielder was instead placed on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday, retroactive to Monday.
Marte had been sidelined nearly a week with a right hand contusion and a sprain of the fourth MCP ligament on the same hand. Hitting .282 with 11 home runs, 33 RBIs and 35 stolen bases, the 24-year-old outfielder won't be eligible to return until Sept. 4.
"This is all part of the original injury. There have been no new complications," Hurdle said. "We'll have more information when we get home and he's seen by our doctors."
Pittsburgh recalled outfielder Andrew Lambo from Triple-A Indianapolis to take Marte's place on the 25-man roster.
Giants: Vogelsong set to once again face former team
Looking to salvage a series split, the Giants will counter with righty Ryan Vogelsong, who spent much of his early career with the Pirates.
Traded from the Giants to the Pirates during the 2001 season, Vogelsong went 10-19 with a 6.00 ERA in 103 appearances (33 starts) over parts of five seasons with Pittsburgh from 2001-06. He pitched only in the Minors in '02 while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
He returned to the Giants as a free agent prior to the '11 season and promptly went 13-7 with a 2.71 ERA while also earning his first career All-Star selection. After following it up with a 14-9 record and 3.37 ERA last season, he's had a rocky '13 campaign.
The right-hander is just 2-4 with a 6.29 ERA and missed two-and-a-half months with a broken hand. Vogelsong, however, has posted a 3.78 ERA in three no-decisions since returning from the disabled list on Aug. 9.
• Burnett is 6-2 with a 1.95 ERA in eight career starts against the Giants, though all but one of those outings came prior to 2008.
• Pirates second baseman Neil Walker is 7-for-13 with four doubles and three RBIs lifetime against Vogelsong. The .538 average is Walker's best against any pitcher whom he's faced at least 10 times.