Weary Pirates stumble out of gate in San Diego

Weary Pirates stumble out of gate in San Diego

Weary Pirates stumble out of gate in San Diego
SAN DIEGO -- While the Pirates may have lost a 3-1 battle in the series opener with the Padres on Monday night, starter Kevin Correia and Monday callup Kyle McPherson certainly did their part to keep the Bucs in good shape for the rest of the playoff push.

A day after a 19-inning win on Sunday burnt out their bullpen (and parts of their starting rotation), Correia gutted out 4 1/3 innings and held the Padres to three runs (two earned) from the Petco Park rubber just hours after leaving the one at Busch Stadium.

Correia, who threw two scoreless innings in St. Louis, gave up two hits and a run to the Padres' first two batters, Everth Cabrera and Will Venable. But after a two-run first, he settled in, scattering seven Padres hits and walking just one while allowing just one run the rest of the way.

"[He threw] 18 out of 23 first-pitch strikes, 10 guys retired on three pitches or less, bunch of ground balls," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Some of them found holes."

Correia's efficient performance, though not in victory, took the burden off a beleaguered Bucs bullpen and allowed Hurdle to rest some arms that desperately needed it.

"I haven't thrown in back-to-back days even out of the bullpen in over five years. ... But mentally I knew I'd be fine with it," Correia said. "I'm not going to pass up [a start], especially if I can get out there and help our team after a 19-inning game."

Andrew McCutchen nearly erased Correia's three-run deficit in the third with a deep fly ball to center with two men on. Unfortunately for McCutchen, the shot fell victim to Petco Park and into Cameron Maybin's glove inches in front of the center-field fence.

Helping Correia carry the load was McPherson, who arrived in San Diego hours before the game from Syracuse, where the Pirates' Triple-A affiliate Indians were playing. The 24-year-old made his Major League debut, working scoreless sixth and seventh innings while giving up just one hit and striking out two.

"I was thrilled to have the opportunity, then it was time to turn it on and do my job," McPherson said. "We did a little bit of a scouting review before the game, but once again, I told [catcher Rod Barajas], 'I put my trust in you. You have many years up here. We're going to work together.' I was going to trust his opinion over mine, at that point."

McPherson wasn't the only Bucs pitcher to make his Major League debut, as the guy that came up with him from Indianapolis, left-hander Justin Wilson, relieved him in the eighth and struck out the side while yielding two hits.

"I was just trying to control the body a little bit," Wilson said. "I was mainly trying to just look at Rod, watch his target. I felt a little tentative with the arm, just with the nerves and everything, so I just tried to focus on Rod more than anything else."

"It's a quick look," Hurdle said. "They threw strikes, they had nice command, poise -- all the things we've seen. ... It was good to see both those men involved."

The resilience of the Pirates' pitching staff wasn't matched by their offense, however, thanks in large part to Padres starter Edinson Volquez. The right-hander threw 6 2/3 innings and struck out 10 while yielding one run. Volquez walked three and conceded five hits.

"[Volquez] did pretty well tonight," Correia said. "It would have been tough to beat him."

The Pirates had chances, putting runners on in all but two innings. Jose Tabata had three hits, and Pedro Alvarez, Clint Barmes, McCutchen and Neil Walker also had knocks, but none of them came when Pittsburgh needed them, as the Pirates went just 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left 11 men on base.

Chelsea Janes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.