Owners of the worst record in the NL, the San Diego Padres seem primed for a productive second half to their season.
The Padres look to match their longest winning streak of the season and complete a three-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals at Qualcomm Stadium.
Closer Rod Beck got the final three outs for his 11th save in as many opportunities.
San Diego beat St. Louis for the second straight game after dropping 29 of 34 to the Cardinals, dating to the start of the 1999 season.
The Padres are on the brink of completing just their second sweep of the season. San Diego took three straight from Los Angeles from July 1-3.
“I don’t know what went on before I got here,” Beck said, “but this team is slowly but surely learning how to win.”
San Diego had a record of 16-41 when it signed Beck on June 2. Since then, the Padres have gone 23-22. They had won eight of 10 before heading into the All-Star break by losing four of five.
“We have started to play the game the way it’s supposed to be played,” San Diego catcher Gary Bennett said. “We’re finding ways to win games rather than doing just enough to lose.”
The Cardinals fell four games behind first-place Houston in the NL Central, losing four of six since the All-Star break.
St. Louis’s chase for the NL Central title took a hit Tuesday when the Cardinals learned that ace Matt Morris has a fractured right index finger after getting hit by a line drive during Monday’s 5-4 loss.
The right-hander was placed on the 15-day disabled list and is expected to miss three-to-six weeks.
STANDINGS: Cardinals - 2nd place, 4 GB, NL Central. Padres - 5th place, 25 GB, NL West.
CARDINALS PROBABLE STARTER: Brett Tomko (5-6, 5.91 ERA). Tomko is 1-1 with a 7.37 ERA over his last three starts. The veteran right-hander didn’t figure into the decision of St. Louis’ 8-5 loss to Los Angeles on Thursday, allowing five runs and six hits over 5 1-3 innings, striking out five and walking one. Tomko is 2-4 with a 2.92 ERA in eight career appearances against San Diego, including five starts.
PADRES PROBABLE STARTER: Brian Lawrence (5-11, 4.52 ERA). Lawrence is 0-2 with a 3.75 ERA over his last three starts, including Thursday’s 6-0 loss to Atlanta. The 27-year-old right-hander allowed four runs and six hits over six innings, walking four and striking out one. Lawrence is 1-2 with a 2.83 ERA in four career starts against St. Louis.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Cardinals - Albert Pujols, .371 avg., 91 RBIs and 88 runs; Pujols and Jim Edmonds, 29 HRs; Edgar Renteria, 24 SBs. Padres - Mark Loretta, .311 avg. and 45 runs; Ryan Klesko, 20 HRs and 58 RBIs; Gary Matthews, 8 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Cardinals, 3-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cardinals - RHP Tomko has served up a team-leading 23 homers this season, 14 over his last eight outings. … CF Edmonds is batting .500 with two doubles, one homer and two RBIs in 10 career at-bats against RHP Lawrence. … The Cardinals will recall RHP Mike Crudale from Triple-A Memphis to replace RHP Morris on the roster. Padres - Along with his 11 saves, RHP Beck is 1-1 with a 1.98 ERA since joining the club on June 2. … 2B Loretta is batting .360 (63-for-178) over his last 40 games, raising his average from .256 to a team-leading .311. … San Diego traded LHP Jesse Orosco on Tuesday to the New York Yankees for a player to be named or cash.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cardinals - 22-29 on the road; Padres - 22-31 at home.
INJURIES: Cardinals - RHP Morris (hand), 15-day DL; C Joe Girardi (back), 15-day DL; C Steve Torrealba (elbow), 15-day DL; INF Miguel Cairo (hand), 15-day DL; 2B Fernando Vina (hamstring), 15-day DL; OF Eli Marrero (ankle), 15-day DL; RHP Russ Springer (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Kiko Calero (foot), 60-day DL; RHP Chris Carpenter (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Gene Stechschulte (shoulder), 60-day DL. Padres - INF Keith Lockhart (back), 15-day DL; OF Jason Bay (wrist), 15-day DL; OF Phil Nevin (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Trevor Hoffman (shoulder), 60-day DL.