All Vance Worley needs to be is another link in a strong chain.
The Pirates have been gutted by injuries to the starting lineup -- three regulars were out of action on Thursday against Miami -- but two pitchers combined to allow just one hit through eight innings of what ultimately ended as a 7-2 win.
Pittsburgh is a half-game out of the top wild card spot in the National League, and the Pirates trail first-place Milwaukee in the NL Central Division by only 1 1/2 games.
The Pirates have scored 36 runs in six games this month with a composite batting average just three points shy of .300, and things could improve if reigning league MVP Andrew McCutchen is able to avoid the disabled list with a rib injury. Neil Walker has missed four of five games with a back problem, while Pedro Alvarez is eligible to come back from the bereavement list Friday.
Still, with those players unavailable, the Pittsburgh staff has a 2.80 earned run average in its last six games, while the starters alone are at 2.33.
Worley has been consistent since arriving to the Pirates, and he allowed a single run in his last start on Saturday while getting a no-decision in a game Pittsburgh won, 8-3. His ERA is below 1.00 over his last three starts, which have yielded two victories.
He's opposed by San Diego's Ian Kennedy, who's unbeaten in six starts -- 3-0 with a 2.43 ERA -- since missing a start with a left oblique injury. In his last outing on Saturday, he struck out seven and allowed two hits in five innings while getting no verdict in the Padres' 3-2 win.
Kennedy allowed two runs in six innings while beating the Pirates, 3-2, in San Diego on June 4, but he's 0-2 with a bloated 12.91 ERA in his last two games in Pittsburgh.
Worley has faced the Padres twice and won both 2012 decisions while pitching for Philadelphia.
On Thursday in Pittsburgh, Gregory Polanco drove in four runs and Edinson Volquez tossed seven strong innings to lead the Pirates over the Miami Marlins in the rubber match of a three-game set. Jordy Mercer finished 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored and Starling Marte had a pair of hits and scored twice for the Pirates.
Volquez (9-7) surrendered just one hit and three walks, while striking out seven batters to improve to 6-0 in seven career starts against the Marlins.
On Wednesday in Minnesota, Seth Smith's solo homer in the 10th inning lifted the Padres to a 5-4 win over the Twins, their first win in the series in nine years. Smith's leadoff blast to right field off Anthony Swarzak (2-1) came after the Padres tied the score in the top of the ninth on Everth Cabrera's sacrifice fly.
"You never know when you get up there, but today I was seeing (the ball) pretty good," Smith said.
San Diego's Alexi Amarista then made game-saving over-the-shoulder catch in center field on Eduardo Escobar's blast in the bottom of the ninth with two runners on base.
The Padres snapped a nine-game losing streak to the Twins. It was their first win over Minnesota since June 19, 2005.