Any Pirates fan will tell you that, despite their record, the Padres are not to be taken lightly.
The 16-36 mark Pittsburgh compiled after Aug. 8 last season included five losses and just one win over the Padres. Since PNC Park opened in 2001, the Pirates have dropped every home series against the Padres, who are 29-10 in the Buccos' ballpark.
So, yes, one could say that San Diego had been causing problems for the Pirates well before Padres righty Andrew Cashner flirted with a perfect game Monday night, firing a one-hit shutout in a series-opening 2-0 victory.
The Pirates will look for a better result Tuesday night in the second of a four-game set at PNC Park. Jeff Locke is scheduled to pitch for Pittsburgh, with fellow southpaw Eric Stults toeing the slab for San Diego.
Every game is crucial for the Pirates, who enter Tuesday tied with the Cardinals for the National League Central lead. The Reds are just 2 1/2 games back.
Locke, a first-time All-Star this season, has struggled since the Midsummer Classic, but he's coming off his finest performance of the second half. On Thursday, he held the Cubs to three hits and one run across seven innings, with one walk and five strikeouts.
"I just think you've got to keep building on it," said Locke, who was sent to Double-A Altoona near the end of August to rest awhile. "Nothing has really changed with me mentally. Yeah, I had the break in between, but I'm still trying to go out there and attack and be aggressive, and tonight was just an example of everything going the way you'd like it to."
Before his latest outing, Locke hadn't won since July 21. His opponent Tuesday, Stults, last won July 14.
But Stults turned in a quality effort during his last outing. Pitching in Philadelphia on Wednesday, he surrendered six hits -- including two solo shots, which accounted for the only runs -- over six innings, while issuing five strikeouts without a walk.
"I gave us a chance to win," Stults said afterward. "That was big for me. The last two starts haven't gone so well."
Padres: Gyorko contributes in familiar territory
Jedd Gyorko -- a Morgantown, W.Va., native and former West Virginia University star -- drove in one of San Diego's two runs in Monday's series opener. The clutch hit was likely witnessed by a crowd of Gyorko supporters, about 1,400 of whom are expected to make the roughly 1 1/2-hour trip from Morgantown to Pittsburgh for this week's series.
"It's going to be interesting to see how many show up," said Gyorko, who grew up rooting for the Pirates. "Morgantown is home for me and we're like all one big family, so when something like this happens, they definitely gather and give me a lot of support."
Pirates: Newcomers aiding playoff run
Justin Morneau, Marlon Byrd and Kyle Farnsworth haven't been Pirates for very long, but a team chasing its first postseason appearance since 1992 has already benefited from their collective presence. Morneau drove in the game-winning run Sunday, Byrd is batting .319 and Farnsworth hasn't surrendered a run in six appearances.
"They made a good team stronger," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "They've given us more weapons. When [we] can bring in men who've played their volume of games and gone through different challenges and not been involved in a meaningful pennant race, they have an excitement level that's real."
• In September, the Pirates are 8-7 and the Padres are 9-5.
• When the two teams met in San Diego Aug. 19-21, the Bucs won two out of three.
Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.