PITTSBURGH -- Opponents should know this by now: Give these San Diego Padres any opening with a mistake, an error, a walk or a balk and they'll take advantage. Extra-base hits are optional.
Mat Latos pitched effectively over six innings despite giving up two solo home runs in his first start since July 8 and the division-leading Padres won for the seventh time in nine games, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-2 on Saturday night.
With Latos (11-4) back in the rotation and winning his sixth in a row, it was a typical night for the Padres. They lack power hitters and their .253 batting average is the NL's fourth worst, yet a team with a league-best 57-39 record keeps finding ways to manufacture runs.
Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez's error misplaying Jerry Hairston Jr.'s grounder began a three-run sixth -- the first of two multiple-run San Diego innings that started with an infield error. Adrian Gonzalez and Chase Headley had run-scoring singles and Nick Hundley added a sacrifice fly off Jeff Karstens (2-6) in an inning that included two walks and a stolen base.
"That's kind of what we've been able to do for the most part all year," Headley said. "We're not a club that's going to hit ton of homers, hit a ton of doubles. But we find a way to get runners on, get them over and when we do we're usually able to get them in."
The Padres did it again during a five-run eighth that started with first baseman Garrett Jones' error and was interrupted by a 42-minute rain delay. Former San Diego reliever Sean Gallagher committed a balk with the bases loaded, and pinch-hitter Oscar Salazar had a two-run double.
"You got to take advantage when teams give you extra outs. You've got to do your best to make them pay for it," Headley said.
Salazar's double produced the only runs generated by an extra-base hit of the 14 San Diego has scored so far in the three-game series. Four runs have scored on sacrifice flies.
Padres relievers pitched three scoreless innings for the second night in a row, with rookie Ernesto Frieri and Joe Thatcher combining for the seventh before Tim Stauffer pitched the final two innings to lower his ERA to 0.31.
"Like we've done all year, a combination of guys pitched well out of the 'pen," manager Bud Black said.
This is typical, too -- a Padres series victory in Pittsburgh. The Padres are assured of winning their 10th consecutive series in PNC Park, where they are 23-9.
The Pirates lost their third in a row and their 11th in 15 games overall.
Latos, picked for the All-Star game at age 22 before going on the disabled list with a strained muscle in his left side, had a 17-innings scoreless streak ended by rookie Jose Tabata's second career homer in the third. Delwyn Young's fifth homer of the season put the Pirates up 2-1 in the fifth.
"I thought the Delwyn Young home run was big but, unfortunately, we gave up three runs in the next inning," Pirates manager John Russell said.
Latos said his mechanics were off while giving up as many homers as he did in his previous 12 starts combined, and he didn't feel sharp at the start. Black felt differently.
"From the first inning on, I didn't see anything that would indicate any time off," Black said. "He threw a number of pitches 95 miles per hour and the arm strength was there."
Latos, supposedly injured while halting a sneeze, was lifted after giving up seven hits, striking out seven and walking two in six innings. Karstens (2-6) gave up four runs, two earned, and seven hits in six innings while losing his fourth in a row.
"They gave me a 2-1 lead and I let it slip away," Karstens said. "That (the Alvarez error) was unfortunate, but I've got to do a better job of minimizing the damage."
Padres reliever Mike Adams (strained left oblique) threw his first bullpen session since going on the disabled list. He can be activated Tuesday. ... Karstens didn't allow a homer after giving up a combined four in his previous two starts. ... Some in a crowd of 36,967 drawn in part by a postgame Steve Miller concert booed when the eighth inning resumed, preferring to continue watching a prerecorded Lynyrd Skynyrd concert that was playing on the scoreboard. ... Padres CF Tony Gwynn ranged far to his left to make a sliding catch of Alvarez's drive to the right-center gap in the eighth.