How late is too late?
The clock is ticking against the Padres, whom many considered a postseason shoo-in after they fortified an already impressive roster with the likes of Xander Bogaerts, Michael Wacha, Nelson Cruz and Matt Carpenter
But little has gone to plan. Most recently, given a chance to sweep the lowly Detroit Tigers on Sunday, San Diego lost 3-1 to fall four games under .500 with 62 games remaining.
Monday's contest also marks the beginning of a six-game homestand. But following the Pirates into town will be the American League West-leading Texas Rangers, and the Padres hit the road again for eight of 12 games after that
The Padres' only four home games during that stretch won't be easy ones, either. The National League West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers will come to town
A series win versus the Pirates certainly could help the Padres set the tone for their homestand and beyond. Pittsburgh is just 2-7 since the All-Star break, but it did sweep San Diego in a three-game set in Pittsburgh in late June
"We played a solid all-around series against the Padres," Pirates manager Derek Shelton said after his team outscored San Diego 21-9 from June 27-29. "We got good pitching, especially from the bullpen, timely hitting, and we just played good baseball against a dangerous team.
While the Padres' opponents might be playing good baseball, San Diego manager Bob Melvin thinks his team tends to beat itself
"I think regardless of who we play, we should be confident to win a series and/or get on a run here," Melvin said. "I don't think the opponent matters.
"But at this point in time, every series is going to be a challenge for us. ... At times, we've played better against teams like Tampa than against teams with poorer records. I don't think who we play really matters. It's more about us."
Offense has often been hard to come by for the Padres, who have scored no more than three runs in 44 percent of their games this season. In those games, San Diego is 6-38
Right-hander Yu Darvish (7-6, 4.36 ERA) will try to steer the Padres away from those negative trends when he makes his 18th start of the season on Monday
In his most recent outing, Darvish allowed four hits in six scoreless innings against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday to earn back-to-back wins for the first time since early June.
Darvish is 4-2 with a 2.63 ERA in nine career starts against the Pirates
Pittsburgh will send fellow right-hander Quinn Priester (0-1, 11.81) to the mound in the series opener.
Priester will be making his second major league start, and the first one didn't go so well. He allowed seven runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings against the visiting Cleveland Guardians on July 17. Priester walked two and struck out two while taking the loss.
--Field Level Media