PITTSBURGH -- Vance Worley was four impressive starts into his pitching rebirth when his original team visited PNC Park in early July, and a member of the Phillies' traveling party cautioned against expecting the ride to continue.
"He won't keep it up, we've seen it before," said the gentleman in the red polo shirt.
Relayed that opinion, Worley at the time shrugged, winked and said, "I guess it means I'll have to keep proving them wrong."
He now is nine-start proof. Worley's latest eye-opener came in the Pirates' 2-1 victory over San Diego in front of 38,088 fans at sold-out PNC Park on Friday night.
"I have a lot of people I like to keep in mind," Worley said after he'd pitched the Bucs to a season-high nine games above .500. "In this game, you can never be content with what you're doing,"
With the win, the Bucs reclaimed second place in the National League Central from St. Louis.
Making two first-inning runs engineered by the productive top of the lineup count -- Josh Harrison and Gregory Polanco combined to go 6-for-7, score both runs and drive one in -- Worley protected the Bucs' 19th straight victory following a first-inning score. He allowed five hits and a run in seven gutsy innings, finishing off by striking out the side in the seventh. All told, he had seven whiffs and walked one, also hitting a batter.
"They were sitting more on my fastballs -- in to lefties and away from righties," Worley said. "So I decided to show them something different and keep them off balance. By the end of my outing, they were too busy thinking about the other stuff and [I] could go back to the fastball."
Now 5-1, the 26-year-old right-hander played the biggest role in the Bucs' third straight victory -- with the help of perfect relief from Tony Watson and Mark Melancon, who himself fanned the side to earn his career-high 21st save.
When Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker were unplugged with injuries and Pedro Alvarez went on the bereavement list, the Chicken Littles of Buccos Nation felt the sky falling.
"We know it's gonna take all of us," said Harrison, who not only stayed in the game after San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera landed on his left ankle on a fifth-inning steal attempt, but minutes later turned in the key defensive play of the game. "We want those guys back as soon as possible, and healthy. But, at the same time, we know we're fully capable of doing what we need to, every night."
Alvarez did come off the bereavement list prior to the game, and flied out in a pinch-hitting appearance.
A PNC Park sellout crowd of 38,088 shared in the satisfying win over the Pirates' historical tormentors.
Ever since PNC Park opened, asking the Bucs "Who's your padre?" was a rhetorical question. The Friars had taken 31 of 42 games here and, while their edge over the Pirates at home isn't as dramatic, owned an overall 55-28 record against Pittsburgh since 2001.
The game hinged on a sixth-inning threat against Worley that reached bases-loaded, none-out critical mass.
Singles by Cabrera and Yangervis Solarte began it, then Seth Smith walked to load the bases. Harrison turned Jedd Gyorko's bouncer to third into a home-to-first DP, then Yonder Alonso's pop fly to left ended the inning.
"Looking back, obviously the guys in front of me worked their [rear] off," Gyorko said. "That's on me. I got a little overanxious. I can't let them [the Pirates] off the hook like that."
Harrison fielded Gyorko's grounder within steps of the third-base bag, and for an instant considered going for the base before firing home. But his throbbing ankle made him reconsider.
"I knew my limitations," Harrison said. "I knew what I was dealing with, so thought it was best just to get the lead out. If [catcher Russell Martin] got the out at first, fine, but I definitely wanted to get the tying run. I gave Russell a real good throw, and he made a great throw to first to get the double play."
That was the second time the first two Padres had reached, and Worley turned them away both times. San Diego's lone score had come in the first on Smith's sacrifice fly.
The Bucs' response was instant: Harrison led off the inning with a triple and scored on a single by Polanco, who stole second and continued to third on catcher Rene Rivera's throwing error before scoring on Ike Davis' sacrifice fly.
Harrison's triple extended his hitting streak to 12 games. His story may soon have to be moved to the section of fairy tales. He reached his other three times up, too, with a walk and two singles to set his average at .314.
Harrison thus matched something last done in Pittsburgh by Big Poison (Paul Waner, in 1932) and Cobra (Dave Parker, in 1978) -- concentrate 13 extra-base hits into a total of 21 in an 11-game stretch.
The least we could do is start calling Harrison "Big Cobra" -- but it won't work, since he stands a modest 5-foot-8.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.