With 10 games remaining in the regular season, Andrew McCutchen said the Pirates don't have to the time to struggle the way they have in the past few days.
He made his point after Mark Melancon blew his third save this season, surrendering a one-run lead in the ninth inning, and the offense was mostly absent in a 3-2 loss Wednesday night to the San Diego Padres at PNC Park.
"I know we can do a lot better of a job than what we're doing right now," McCutchen said. "We have so many games left -- it's time to pick it up. It's time to get going. We don't have time to make it as close as it's been the past few days. And we have the offense to do those things."
But McCutchen was the only part of the offense that did much of anything Wednesday, hitting a two-run homer in the seventh that gave the Pirates a brief lead.
The Pirates (87-65) managed just three hits in their third consecutive loss, all against the Padres (71-80).
"These are never easy, especially at this point," shortstop Clint Barmes said.
The one-run cushion McCutchen created proved too little in the ninth when Melancon surrendered four hits and two earned runs.
"You've got to tip your hat," Melancon said. "They put the ball in play, found some holes. Sometimes, it happens that way."
Jedd Gyorko, Chris Denorfia, Logan Forsythe and Rene Rivera each singled to right -- Forsythe's hit scored the tying run while Rivera's drove in the winner.
"He pitched the way he pitches most of the time," manager Clint Hurdle said. "The cutter was out there, and they went with it. They were able to find some grass and some holes. That's basically the story right there. He was throwing strikes."
The blown save spoiled a brilliant pitching performance from starter Charlie Morton, who had his best outing this season, if not his career. Morton allowed one run on two hits in eight innings, his longest outing of the season, and struck out nine, tied for his career high.
"I honestly don't really care about the strikeouts," Morton said. "That's nice, and it's great, but I'd rather pitch in the eighth and ninth inning than strike people out, any time."
Morton threw 99 pitches and said that, although he would have been able to try for a complete game, he thought Hurdle made the right decision to take him out in favor of Melancon.
He seemed destined for a hard-luck loss until the seventh, when McCutchen homered to give the Pirates their first lead of this series.
After the Pirates struggled for six innings, McCutchen smashed a 3-0 fastball that San Diego starter Tyson Ross put over the heart of the plate and sent it sailing into the right-center field seats. The 27,640 in attendance used "M-V-P" chants to beckon him out of the dugout for a curtain call.
McCutchen became the only Pirates player besides Barry Bonds to hit at least 20 home runs and steal at least 20 bases in three consecutive seasons.
A one-out walk to Gyorko got things started for the Padres in the fourth. Chase Headley then hit a ground ball that glanced off Justin Morneau's glove and into shallow right-center field for a single that was the first hit off Morton. Gyorko took third and scored one pitch later when Tommy Medica hit into a fielder's choice.
Third baseman Pedro Alvarez tried for a double play instead of trying to get Gyorko at home. But two off-target throws allowed Medica to reach first and the Padres owned a 1-0 lead.
Meanwhile, a Pirates offense that had scored just two runs in their previous 18 innings looked lost for a third consecutive game. Ross, who allowed five runs, four earned, on six hits in 6 1/3 innings in his previous outing against the Pirates, dominated them Wednesday night. He yielded two earned runs on three hits in seven innings, struck out seven and walked none.
Michael Sanserino: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino. First Published September 19, 2013 1:45 AM