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Venable picks up his second RBI

SAN DIEGO -- Edinson Volquez's hard work between starts with Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley appears to be paying off.

Volquez, who spent the days following his recent troublesome starts working on his mechanics, threw 6 2/3 strong innings to lead the Padres to a 3-1 victory over Pittsburgh in the opener of a three-game series at Petco Park on Monday.

Will Venable had two hits in drove in two runs to give San Diego a 16th win in its past 19 games against Pittsburgh.

Volquez (8-9) tied his season high with 10 strikeouts, rebounding nicely from a four-game skid in which he had gone 1-2 with a 13.38 ERA. The 29-year-old right-hander allowed one run on five hits and picked up his first win since July 30. Also battling recent issues stemming from a blister on his right thumb, Volquez had gone fewer than five innings in each of his past three outings.

"It's about time," Volquez said. "I put in a lot of work with the pitching coach. We were working every day just to fix me, and I think it was great tonight. I was under control with my mechanics and my delivery was better. My fastball tonight was better, everything was better."

Manager Bud Black also liked the improvements he saw from Volquez, but he thinks there is even more to Volquez's game than he showed on Monday.

"Tonight was more indicative of what he can do," Black said. "But, I still think there is a cleaner game in there for him, I really do. His ball-strike ratio wasn't where it needs to be overall. I'd still say there is more in there, because he's a good pitcher. He's got good stuff. But, I think the mechanics were a little cleaner."

Venable and the Padres jumped on former teammate Kevin Correia early, as Everth Cabrera led off the game with a double and scored when Venable singled.

"Those situations are what we want to be in," Venable said. "We all want to be in that situation and get the job done, and tonight we did a good job all the way around."

Venable added another RBI single in the second as the Padres built a 3-0 lead against Correia (9-8), who had recently been relegated to the bullpen and pitched two innings of relief on Sunday in Pittsburgh's 19-inning win in St. Louis.

"I just made a couple bad pitches in the first I wish I could get back," Correia said. "An 0-2 curve to Cabrera to lead off the game and then another 0-2 pitch where I hit [Carlos] Quentin. Besides that, I really feel like I threw the ball pretty decently."

Despite the unusual assignment of starting a game on zero days' rest, Correia showed little sign of fatigue, according to Venable.

"It's out of the ordinary for a pitcher to do that, so there might have been something going on," Venable said. "Everything he threw me was pretty sharp, and he didn't really look tired to me."

The Pirates broke through against Volquez in the sixth, when Neil Walker singled home Andrew McCutchen to make it 3-1. Pittsburgh knocked Volquez out of the game in the next inning by putting the tying run on first, but Brad Brach came on to strike out McCutchen on a 3-2 pitch to end the threat.

"I was trying to stay down and away with the fastball," Brach said. "I got him to 2-2 and I wanted to challenge him with the fastball and I got a fastball up in the zone. I figured 3-2, he's going to try to hit my best pitch here, so I pretty much just reached back and threw it a little bit up and out of the zone and he swung through it."

Black opted to bring in a reliever, given McCutchen had faced Volquez three times in the game and was 4-for-10 in his career with a home run against him.

"That was a huge out," Black said. "Brach was pretty fresh. Against McCutchen, I thought it was a different look for one of the best hitters in the league."

Luke Gregerson extended his stretch of scoreless outings to 19 by working around a hit and a walk in the eighth, and Dale Thayer converted his seventh save in nine chances, his second since closer Huston Street went on the disabled list on Aug. 11.

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