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Padres optimistic about 2009 progress

Padres optimistic about 2009 progress

PITTSBURGH -- San Diego evened its four game series with Pittsburgh at a game apiece with a 2-1 win on Saturday.

The Padres will send right-hander Kevin Correia to the hill on Sunday. Pittsburgh will counter with lefty Paul Maholm.

The Padres have gone 29-20 since July 28 and manager Bud Black sees a great deal of improvement.

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"The complexion of the club has changed over the last couple of months," Black explained. "The roster has transitioned, but I think what we've seen is some players become more entrenched in their mind, and in our mind as Major League players. Notably, Will Venable, Everth Cabrera, Luke Gregerson on the pitching side and some guys not knowing how the season was going to turn out for them -- I think now have solidfied themselves as Major League players.

"The performance of a number of guys in the last six weeks or two months has risen. Kevin Kouzmanoff, Chase Headley and Venable again leads us to think that some pieces are in place for next year that we'll feel real good about."

The young Padres may be coming along a little faster than expected.

"It could happen, it could," Black said. "But here again, I think the talent is there, it's just a matter of those guys realizing their talent and doing it between the lines. From a position players standpoint, I still think that so much of any team's success is dependent on the pitching. We've pitched very well at times and other times we haven't. We're pitching much better now than we did early in the year."

Pitching matchup
SD: RHP Kevin Correia (10-10, 4.24 ERA)
Correia made his team-high 30th start of the season against Arizona on Monday and pitched well, allowing a two-run single to the opposing pitcher, Billy Buckner, and little else. "Hanging slider," Correia said. "Those pitchers are tough sometimes. We knew he was a good hitter, but you don't get scouting reports on them. It was just a slider that stayed up." Correia didn't allow another run, as he struck out seven in 6 1/3 innings with two walks.

PIT: LHP Paul Maholm (8-8, 4.51 ERA)
Maholm pitched phenomenally in his last start to break the Pirates out of a losing funk and earn his first win since Aug. 19. The lefty didn't allow a run in eight innings. Maholm, who has endured his fair share of ups and downs, has a chance to reach the 10-win mark if he can finish the season strong. The Pirates haven't had three 10-game winners on their staff since 2003. The key for Maholm continues to be how well he has a feel for his sinker pitch, which, when on, can be devastating.

Tidbits
Padres second baseman David Eckstein committed his second error of the season in Saturday's win over the Pirates. Eckstein leads the Major Leagues in fielding percentage at his position. ... The Padres collected their 3,000th victory as an organization on Saturday. They are 3,000-3,503 all-time.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• 4 San Diego

On radio
• XPRS 1090, XEMO 860 (Español)

Up next
• Monday: Padres (Wade LeBlanc, 2-1, 4.30) at Pirates (Daniel McCutchen, 0-2, 5.50), 4:05 p.m. PT
• Tuesday: Padres (Edward Mujica, 3-4, 3.36) at Rockies (TBD), 5:40 p.m. PT
• Wednesday: Padres (Tim Stauffer, 4-7, 3.56) at Rockies (TBD), 5:40 p.m. PT

George Von Belko is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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