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Pirates waste good start by Francisco Liriano, lose 2-1 to Padres

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PITTSBURGH, Pa. - Jordy Mercer led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a single and Russell Martin doubled to put men on second and third with no outs and the Pittsburgh Pirates down by a run.

With the Pirates primed to at least tie the game, if not take the lead, San Diego Padres reliever Kevin Quackenbush had other plans. He broke Ike Davis' bat on a line out, struck out Starling Marte and induced a fly ball from Gregory Polanco to silence the scoring threat.

"We weren't able to make good outs," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said, "let alone get a hit."

The 2-1 lead held the rest of the way as Eric Stults earned his first road win of the season Saturday.

Stults (5-13) pitched 6 1-3 innings and gave up one run and seven hits, struck out six and walked none. He entered the game with an 0-9 record away from Petco Park.

The Padres scored both runs in the first inning off Francisco Liriano (3-8). San Diego loaded the bases with no outs and scored on Jedd Gyorko's RBI single and Yasmani Grandal's sacrifice fly.

Pittsburgh answered in the home half when Josh Harrison led off with a single, stole second and scored on Russell Martin's RBI single.

Hurdle chalked up Liriano's arduous first inning to a spot of bad luck.

"A few well-placed groundballs," Hurdle said. "The hit batter didn't help, that was the one misstep."

After Gyorko's single Liriano retired the next 19 batters he faced before walking Grandal with two outs in the seventh. He gave up three hits and a walk in seven innings.

San Diego manager Bud Black, a former pitching coach, noted the effects to which each starter used his changeup.

"I thought that was the key for both pitchers to keep that score at 2-1 basically the entire game," Black said. "It was a very deserving win for Stultsy because he matched a guy who had us handcuffed after the first inning."

Jared Hughes pitched a scoreless eighth for Pittsburgh. Hughes hit Tommy Medica in the back of the head with a pitch to load the bases. Medica left the game.

"We caught a break there," Black said. "It was a hard fastball with velocity and movement but fortunately he was evaluated by the Pirates' team doctor (Edward Snell) and checked out fine. Obviously, it was good that he got on his feel and could walk off on his own."

Joaquin Benoit struck out two in a scoreless ninth for his fifth save.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Padres: Right-hander Andrew Cashner (shoulder) made his first rehab start for Single-A Lake Elsinore on Friday night and threw 24 pitches over two scoreless innings. Black said Cashner's velocity was normal and he received good reports. Cashner is slated to throw a side session with Elsinore on Monday and then make his second rehab start with Triple-A El Paso on Wednesday.

Pirates: Center fielder Andrew McCutchen (rib) missed his fifth straight game. ... Second baseman Neil Walker (back) could be nearing a return to the starting lineup after participating in batting practice and field work before each of the last two games. He pinch-hit in the ninth inning, his first action since Tuesday.

ON DECK

Padres: Right-hander Tyson Ross (10-10, 2.62 ERA) looks to continue his strong season as the Padres wrap up their five-game trip. Ross is among the league leaders in innings this season with 154 2-3. He had thrown at least six innings in 18 of his 22 starts this season.

Pirates: Right-hander Charlie Morton (5-10, 3.43 ERA) attempts to stay undefeated against San Diego. The sinkerballer is 3-0 with a 1.78 ERA in four career starts against the Padres, with the latest win coming in Pittsburgh 10-3 at Petco Park June 2 with Morton allowing two runs in five innings.

ACROSS THE DIAMOND

Pittsburgh third baseman Pedro Alvarez, removed from the bereavement list Friday, has taken infield work at first base before the Pirates' games each of the last two days. The move is a potential solution to get Alvarez's bat back in the regular lineup while reducing the risks associated with his league-high 23 throwing errors.

"Maybe this move can free him up offensively and defensively," Hurdle said. "He's willing to give it a shot. Time will tell."

Alvarez was an All-Star in 2013 and tied for the league lead with 36 home runs a year ago, but the plague of throwing errors has dropped him out of regular duty in 2014. Alvarez recognizes the value of giving his team flexibility, but would like to stay at the position he's regularly played since he was 12 years old if he had it his way.

"The desire to be the best third baseman I can be is still in play," Alvarez said.

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