PITTSBURGH -- Two years after the Pirates won 67 games and the Padres won only 63, the opposite-coast franchises possess the National League's two lowest payrolls. On the field, they don't begin to resemble each other.
Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Denorfia homered, Wade LeBlanc won for the first time in six weeks and first-place San Diego finished off its only series sweep in Pittsburgh since 1998, beating the last-place Pirates 6-3 on Sunday.The Padres have won all 10 series in Pittsburgh since PNC Park opened in 2001, but hadn't swept one there before outscoring the Pirates 20-8 in the three weekend games. San Diego swept a two-game series in now-demolished Three Rivers Stadium 12 years ago but hadn't swept a series of at least three games since winning four in a row Aug. 8-11, 1996.An infrequent big inning by a team that relies mostly on situational hitting, a strong starting staff and an even better bullpen decided this one as the Padres (58-39) won their eighth in 10 games to improve to 19 games over .500 for the first time since -- yes, 1998."You can look at 19 games over .500 all you want, but if you don't finish on top of the division it doesn't really matter," Gonzalez said.The Pirates, by contrast, are 30 games below .500 at 34-64 during what is fast becoming their worst season since they lost 104 games in 1985.Gonzalez's two-run homer, his 21st, highlighted a five-run third inning against Pirates rookie Brad Lincoln (1-4), who has a 9.61 ERA this month and was optioned back to Triple-A Indianapolis following his fourth successive flawed start. He allowed 13 runs and 17 hits in 8 2/3 innings in his last two starts."For me, it's probably the best move," Lincoln said. "To go out there and keep struggling is not good for me and it's not good for the team."Denorfia, who drove in three runs, chased Lincoln with a solo homer in the seventh, the Padres' second homer in four innings after they won 5-3 on Friday and 9-2 on Saturday without homering."We're not going, 'Hey, we're 19 games up; we can be 20 games up, we can be 30 games over .500,' " closer Heath Bell said. "We're just going out there and playing ball. We didn't try to sweep this team; we just went out there and said, 'Oh, let's just win today.' "No doubt LeBlanc (5-8) welcomed the support. The Padres scored an average of only 1.72 runs for him as he went 0-4 in six starts since beating Seattle 7-1 on June 12.After LeBlanc was lifted, the Pirates did nothing against San Diego's NL-best bullpen for the third game in a row. Ryan Webb, Luke Gregerson and Bell each pitched a hitless inning, with Bell finishing up in the ninth for his 29th save in 32 chances.The Pirates managed only one hit in nine innings against Padres relievers during the series, striking out 12 times. Going into the series, they had scored 50 runs in six games."Our bullpen's been shutting it down," Gonzalez said.Lincoln lasted only 2 1/3 innings despite being given a 9-0 lead Tuesday against Milwaukee, and this time the right-hander couldn't hold onto a 2-0 lead created by Ronny Cedeno's two-run homer in the second, his fifth of the season. He shaved off his beard following the Brewers game, but even a clean-shaven Lincoln was only marginally better.Lincoln's fastball was mostly in the 90-91 mph range Sunday, and the Pirates want to get the 2006 first-round draft pick back to throwing in the mid-90s."We decided to let him get back to an environment where he's comfortable and make those adjustments and get him back here to Pittsburgh," general manager Neal Huntington said.LeBlanc, who had two hits, got the five-run third started with a single, and Denorfia followed Jerry Hairston Jr.'s single with a two-run double. Gonzalez then homered into the right-field seats, and Will Venable's RBI single made it 5-2 two batters later.
Pirates CF Andrew McCutchen returned after missing six games with a sore shoulder. He went 1 for 4. ... The Pirates went 4-6 on a 10-game homestand. They are 7-13 in July after going 6-20 in June. ... Padres C Yorvit Torrealba doubled while reaching base four times to run his hitting streak to 10 games (15 for 36, .417), the longest by a San Diego player this season. ... San Diego is 23-9 in PNC Park. ... Pirates starting pitchers are 18-53.