The San Diego Padres haven't won three games in a row since early June, failing in their only two attempts. Then again, they haven't tried to do so with Jake Peavy on the mound.
The Padres will send their ace to the hill on Sunday, looking to take three of four from the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park while stringing together three straight wins for the first time in seven weeks.San Diego (40-65) has seen its season marred by injuries and one of the least imposing lineups in the majors. The Padres have had five starting pitchers -- including Peavy -- spend lengthy stints on the disabled list, and their offense has scored the second-fewest runs in baseball.After a 9-1 loss to the Pirates (48-56) on Thursday, though, San Diego's lineup has broken out. The Padres had 11 hits -- including an Adrian Gonzalez homer -- in their 6-5 win on Friday, before Gonzalez launched two more home runs Saturday en route to a 9-6 victory.Gonzalez had been batting .220 with no homers and five RBIs over his last 14 games entering this series, but is 6-for-12 with seven RBIs in the first three games in Pittsburgh."I was able to get some pitches that were comfortable to hit and that helped me a lot," said Gonzalez, who has 25 homers -- five off his career high, set last season. "They were middle, middle away, where my strength is. It made it easier to get to the ball."Peavy (7-6, 2.76 ERA) will try to help the Padres win three in a row for the first time since a season-high five-game run June 4-8. He's been outstanding at home (4-3, 1.45), but just ordinary on the road (3-3, 4.53), where he's made his last two starts.Peavy gave up three runs over six innings Tuesday at Cincinnati, as the Padres lost 4-3 in 11 innings.The reigning NL Cy Young award winner is 4-0 with a 1.30 ERA in his last five starts against the Pirates, although he hasn't faced them since 2006.Paul Maholm (7-6, 3.92) hasn't won any Cy Young awards, but he's been the closest thing Pittsburgh has had to a front-of-the-rotation starter this season.Maholm, the only Pirates starter to pitch through the eighth inning this season, has done it in three of his last four starts. He allowed one run in eight innings on Tuesday at Houston as Pittsburgh won 8-2."Maholm's been a breath of fresh air," catcher Ryan Doumit told the Pirates' official Web site. "He's been our ace the majority of the year. We love it when he's out there."Maholm is 3-1 with a 2.88 ERA since June 15. He lost his lone career start against the Padres, giving up four runs over 7 2-3 innings in a 9-0 loss on May 30, 2007.Doumit, meanwhile, had a pair of hits Saturday to raise his average to .328. With outfielder Xavier Nady dealt to the Yankees in a trade finalized Saturday, Doumit is Pittsburgh's leading remaining hitter.