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CHC@PIT: Morton battles Arrieta in lengthy at-bat

The Pirates are playing for a division title and maybe even home-field advantage. The Padres are playing for pride and to take a good look at what they might have in store for 2014.

So when the two teams face off at PNC Park on Wednesday in a 7:05 p.m. ET game, Pittsburgh will be looking for an excellent effort from right-hander Charlie Morton. San Diego will be eyeing right-hander Tyson Ross to see if he's part of the plan in the rotation moving forward.

Pittsburgh trails the Cardinals by a game in the National League Central and leads the Reds by 1 1/2 games for the first NL Wild Card spot.

For Morton, who has largely been very effective for Pittsburgh and figures prominently in the club's postseason plans, there was nothing wrong with his last start. In fact, it showed toughness that should play well on the October stage.

Morton wasn't a sure thing to pitch in his last outing against the Cubs, because in the start prior to that, he left in the second inning against St. Louis because of pain from plantar fasciitis in his left heel. But he took the ball and did his job, logging five innings of three-run ball in a no-decision and impressing his skipper in the process.

"Morton had to grind one out tonight," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "I think he went out there with intent and purpose; the sinker didn't play consistently. The one inning he left three balls up and left-handers squared them up. But he battled."

The Pirates will take that every time in the playoffs.

And the Padres would like to see that from Ross, who's young, has a live arm and is in an organization looking for starting pitchers to step up and impact the rotation moving forward.

To do that, he'll have to pitch better than his last start, when he didn't make it out of the first inning, and more like the outing before that, when he tossed seven shutout frames.

So what happened last time, against the Phillies on Thursday, when he gave up six runs on five hits in two-thirds of an inning?

"It wasn't his night at all," Padres manager Bud Black said. "It started with a checked-swing, infield chopper. The next three hitters, he fell behind and threw some fastballs to the middle part of the plate. He couldn't make that one pitch to limit the damage."

Ross will get another shot, and he knows what he has to do.

"I'm looking forward to getting past this," he said.

Padres: Venable's season enviable
Outfielder Will Venable, with 22 home runs and 20 steals, has recorded the 10th 20/20 season in club history. He is the first Padres player to accomplish the feat since Mike Cameron had 22 home runs and 25 stolen bases in 2006.

• San Diego has made itself at home since PNC Park opened in 2001, winning 30 of the 40 games and outscoring the home club, 249-156. The record includes an 11-game winning streak that was snapped on Aug. 12 of last year.

• Reliever Luke Gregerson pitched a scoreless ninth inning on Tuesday night and has not allowed an earned run over his last 10 outings (10 innings, six hits, two walks, 10 strikeouts).

Pirates: Getting it done in the Cutch
Outfielder and NL MVP Award candidate Andrew McCutchen is hitting .412 (21-for-51) in his first 15 games this month and is leading all NL batters with a .348 (159-for-457) average since April 30.

• The Pirates have won 24 games this season while scoring fewer than four runs. Among all Major League teams, only the Dodgers (26) have won more games when scoring three or fewer runs.

• In the last nine games, Pittsburgh starting pitchers have gone 5-2 with a 3.05 ERA (56 innings, 19 earned runs).

Worth noting
• Padres second baseman Jedd Gyorko's 19 homers this year are the most in franchise history by a rookie second baseman and are the second-most all-time by a Padres rookie behind Nate Colbert (24 in 1969).

• Marlon Byrd is hitting .315 (23-for-73) with seven doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs in 20 games with the Pirates since being acquired from the Mets on Aug. 27. Comments