The Pirates were gone from PNC Park for less than a week, but the feeling at the ballpark Monday will be a much more uneasy one than when they left.
The Bucs' five-game road trip yielded two pitchers to the disabled list, a banged-up shortstop and, above all, their first five-game losing streak in nearly two years. The string of losses now has Pittsburgh 5 1/2 games behind the Brewers in the National League Central -- the largest deficit the team has had since July 5.
However, the Pirates remain close in the Wild Card, trailing San Francisco by 1 1/2 games for the second spot. Atlanta, a fellow team on the outside looking in of the coveted Wild Card spot, is visiting Pittsburgh for a three-game set.
The Braves finished a 10-game homestand with a three-game sweep of Oakland.
The Pirates will send Vance Worley to the mound, and he had a rare non-quality start in his last outing. The Bucs' losing streak began when Worley pitched against the Tigers on Wednesday. The right-hander tied a season worst by allowing nine hits and five runs against Detroit in 5 1/3 innings, though only three were earned runs.
It was the first time since the All-Star break that Worley allowed more than one earned run and just the second time in 10 starts that he wasn't able to complete six frames.
Ervin Santana will start for the Braves. Santana has won five decisions in a row, and he has done so in just six starts. His 12th victory of the season came on Wednesday, when he held the Dodgers to two runs in six innings.
Since back-to-back four-run outings in mid-July pushed his ERA above 4.00, Santana has rebounded with a 4-0 record, 2.38 ERA and 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
The Pirates are one of just two teams that Santana hasn't faced in his career. The Giants are the other.
Braves: Gonzalez defends Teheran's pickoff move
One of Julio Teheran's best weapons is his pickoff move -- he's proved that by picking off 13 baserunners in the past two seasons.
Three of those outs have come in the last week in Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers and then Oakland's Josh Reddick on Saturday night. The right-hander's move caught some flak from both opposing managers, but on Sunday, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez praised Teheran's ability to catch players leaning at first base.
Gonzalez called it "maybe the best" pickoff move he's ever seen from a righty.
"He's got quick feet and he's got a short throw," Gonzalez said. "Some guys have quick feet and it takes them a long time to get the ball to first base. But that's not the case with him. He has both quick feet and a short arm."
Pirates: Morton to DL; Cole will return Wednesday
The Pirates placed right-hander Charlie Morton on the 15-day DL with right hip inflammation on Sunday. The move opens the door for Gerrit Cole to return to the rotation, and he will take Morton's originally scheduled start on Wednesday.
Morton, who has allowed 10 earned runs over eight innings during his last two starts, was not with the Pirates on Sunday, as he went to see a physician.
"Charlie started feeling a level of discomfort a couple of months ago," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's been manageable lately, but now it has started to affect his performance -- and that's when you have to take a closer look at it."
A hard-throwing righty, Cole has not pitched for the Bucs since July 4, when he left after five innings against the Phillies with tightness in his right lat. The issue forced Cole to the DL for the second time since early June.
In four rehab appearances with Triple-A Indianapolis, Cole had a 2.01 ERA in 22 1/3 innings.
• Gregory Polanco was hitless in 19 straight at-bats until hitting his go-ahead two-run double in the ninth inning against Nationals closer Rafael Soriano on Sunday.
• Freddie Freeman and Hunter Pence are the only NL players to start all of their team's games.
Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.