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PIT@CIN: McDonald fans seven over six innings of work

Last July 29, the Pirates began a 10-game losing streak that took them from within 2 1/2 games of the National League Central lead to 10 games behind. Pittsburgh never recovered.

The Padres delivered the final blow of that streak, storming to a sweep at PNC Park from Aug. 5-7.

Slightly more than a year later, San Diego is back in Pittsburgh for the first time since, with the home team looking to avoid a similar plummet down the standings. With their loss to the D-backs on Thursday, the Pirates fell to three games behind the Reds in the NL Central and are 5-5 in their last 10 contests.

The Padres are coming off four straight wins and five of six as they begin a seven-game road trip.

Edinson Volquez (7-8, 3.73 ERA) will take the ball for San Diego, coming off a loss on Saturday against the Mets. The right-hander gave up four runs and lasted only 1 2/3 innings as he dealt with a small blister on the thumb of his throwing hand that messed with his feel for the ball and his mechanics.

"When you have that in your mind, you've lost confidence in your pitches," Volquez said. "You don't want to throw your breaking ball because it will hurt you. ... But you don't trust your fastball, either, because you feel pain. It's just tough. ... But it's something you have to deal with."

The blister is now healed for Volquez, who owns a 2.16 ERA in three career starts at PNC Park.

He will oppose Pirates righty James McDonald (10-5, 3.42), who is coming off a shaky five-start stretch. McDonald has allowed 35 hits, six home runs and 20 walks in 26 2/3 innings over that period, as his ERA has shot up from 2.37.

McDonald did strike out seven and walk one against the Reds on Saturday, but still gave up four runs in six innings.

Padres: Still with San Diego, Headley flourishing
• Despite rumors floating around before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Padres elected to hold on to third baseman Chase Headley.

Their reward thus far has been Headley's 11-for-29 August, with three home runs and 10 RBIs in eight games. The 28-year-old hit safely on Wednesday for the 11th time in his last 12 contests, and owns an .814 OPS for the year despite playing half his games at Petco Park.

On the road, Headley is hitting .287 with a .396 on-base percentage and .495 slugging percentage, as well as 10 of his 15 home runs.

• The Padres recalled catcher Nick Hundley from Triple-A Tucson on Thursday, sending down catcher Eddy Rodriguez to open a roster spot. Hundley began the year as the Padres' starting catcher after signing a three-year contract extension in March, but hit .166 in 55 games before being demoted on June 30.

Pirates: Outfield has undergone transformation
• Andrew McCutchen has been the All-Star constant in the Pirates' outfield this season, but a lot of change has gone on around him.

Pittsburgh started the year with Alex Presley and Jose Tabata starting in the corner spots, but both are now at Triple-A Indianapolis after Presley was optioned on Wednesday. One-time backup Yamaico Navarro is there, too, and veteran Nate McLouth was released at the end of May.

These days, rookie Starling Marte has grabbed the left-field job, while Travis Snider, acquired in a trade with the Blue Jays, is sharing right with Garrett Jones.

• Catcher Michael McKenry extended his career-high hitting streak to nine games on Thursday and is batting .395 (15-for-38) in his last 11 contests.

Worth noting
• The Padres have won nine straight games at PNC Park, going back to 2009.

• The teams will play all six of their regular-season games in the next two weeks.

• McDonald's last start against the Padres came May 2, 2011, in San Diego, when he gave up two runs in six innings and earned the win. Comments