San Diego Padres rookie second baseman Jedd Gyorko invited friends and family to watch him play in Pittsburgh this week, hoping he could do enough to make the hour ride up from Morgantown, W.Va., worth the trouble.
Gyorko had a three-run homer among his three hits and the Padres dropped the Pirates 5-2 last night.
“It’s nice to get that kind of support,” Gyorko said. “ But I think probably every one of those people have seen me hit a home run at one time or another before, so I don’t know if it’s a big deal to them or not.”
Maybe, but it’s a big deal to the Padres, who won for the 10th time in 14 games and put a dent in Pittsburgh’s pursuit of its first NL Central title. Ronny Cedeno added three hits for San Diego.
Eric Stults (9-13) allowed two runs over five innings to pick up his first victory in more than two months. Stults struck out five and walked one to end a string of 10 straight winless starts. Luke Gregerson worked the ninth for his fourth save.
“It’s definitely good to get one,” Stults said. “It’s one of those things that maybe it’ll be a little confidence boost, I’ve thrown some games where I’ve had some tough luck and others where I’ve put in a position to win and it just didn’t happen.”
Andrew McCutchen went 2 for 3 and Marlon Byrd drove in both of Pittsburgh’s runs, but the Pirates continued to have problems with the Padres.
Jeff Locke (10-6) struggled with his command, allowing four runs and seven hits in five innings, striking out five and walking three as his second-half struggles reappeared.
A night after Andrew Cashner’s fired the 19th one-hitter in Padres’ history behind a series of 97 mph fastballs, Stults handcuffed the Pirates with slower stuff.
San Diego improved to 30-10 in Pittsburgh since the ballpark opened in 2001 as Stults and his series of slow, slower and slowest offspeed pitches to keep the Pirates off balance.
At one point, he retired Pedro Alvarez on a 66 mph changeup and dropped it down to 64 mph to get Josh Harrison to ground meekly to third.
It was enough to prevent one of the National League’s top-hitting teams against left-handers from cashing in Pittsburgh tries to keep pace with St. Louis and Cincinnati in a crowded playoff race.
“Everybody’s aware of where we are, what’s going on,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said “At the end of the day, we had a couple of opportunities we didn’t maximize on.”
Locke briefly regained his All-Star form in his last start, when he handcuffed the Chicago Cubs for seven innings to pick up his first win in nearly two months.
The good vibes disappeared in the third, when Gyorko took an 89 mph fastball over the middle of the plate and sent it into the bleachers in left field for his 19th homer of the season.
The Pirates drew within one in the bottom of the inning thanks to a little help from San Diego right fielder Kyle Blanks, who stumbled trying to track down a sinking line drive by Byrd, allowing two runs to score.
Byrd tried to tie the game one batter later when Gaby Sanchez’s infield chopper was mishandled by Gyorko at second base. The ball trickled behind Gyorko but Cedeno — who spent three mostly forgettable seasons in Pittsburgh from 2009-2011 — picked it up and fired home to throw out Byrd as he attempted to score from second.
Pittsburgh would get no closer. Cedeno singled leading off the fifth and came around to score and Pittsburgh’s offense disappeared against a trio of Cincinnati relievers.
The Pirates managed just two base runners over the final four innings, with Cedeno providing a highlight play from deep shortstop against Byrd in the eighth to provide an exclamation point as Pittsburgh stumbled again.
“It feels good to come in and contribute,” Cedeno said. “That is why they signed me, to help win some ballgames and I feel like I’ve been able to do that both with my glove and with my bat.”
The series continues tonight when Pittsburgh’s Charlie Morton (7-4, 3.54 ERA) faces San Diego’s Tyson Ross (3-8, 3.29 ERA).