Jesse Hahn has pitched more like an ace than a rookie since stumbling in his first outing last month, and continuing that trend would be a pretty nice way to spend his 25th birthday.
The right-hander looks for his seventh win in eight starts while leading the Padres to their fourth straight home victory Wednesday night against the offensively challenged St. Louis Cardinals.
Hahn (6-2, 2.12 ERA) wasn't believed to be the main piece of a deal that brought Alex Torres to San Diego and sent Logan Forsythe, Brad Boxberger, Matt Andriese, and Maxx Tissenbaum to Tampa Bay in January.
The 2010 sixth-round pick, however, has been one of the Padres' top starters since his outstanding run began in mid-June.
Hahn had been demoted to Triple-A after allowing four runs over 3 2-3 innings in a loss to Pittsburgh in his major league debut June 3, but he's gone 6-1 with a 1.47 ERA in seven starts since re-joining the rotation on June 14.
Hahn was back in the minors right before the All-Star break in an effort to limit his workload. He then picked up where he left off in his first outing in two weeks Friday, allowing one run and three hits over six innings in a 5-2 win at Atlanta.
"He's got some confidence in his game, which we came to know in spring training," manager Bud Black said. "I like the fact again he's got a pretty even keel about his personality during the course of the game.''
Now he'll try to help the Padres (47-59) take the first two in this three-game set on his birthday after Tuesday's 3-1 win. All-Star Tyson Ross held St. Louis to one run and four hits in six innings as San Diego snapped a three-game losing streak.
Jedd Gyorko went 2 for 3 with an RBI and Yangervis Solarte homered in his home debut after coming over last Tuesday in the deal that sent Chase Headley to the New York Yankees.
The Cardinals (56-49) have put up one run in each of their last two games, and their 3.68-run average is the worst in the majors other than the Padres (3.08).
''We are having trouble scoring runs and facing good pitching," manager Mike Matheny said.
Matt Carpenter contributed the team's only extra-base hit with a double, leaving him 10 for 24 with two homers and two doubles over his last six games.
Although the Cardinals lost for the fifth time in seven games and fell into third place behind Pittsburgh, they remained just 1 1/2 back of NL Central-leading Milwaukee.
St. Louis' Joe Kelly (2-1, 3.90) hopes to regroup after giving up 11 runs and 15 hits over 7 2-3 innings in his two road outings since missing almost three months due to a severe hamstring strain.
The right-hander was fortunate not to factor in the decision Friday, when he allowed five runs and a season-high eight hits over 4 2-3 innings in a 7-6 loss at Wrigley Field.
Kelly should be able to put up a better performance as he faces the light-hitting Padres (.218) for the first time.
San Diego, though, has been getting healthier as Everth Cabrera returned from the disabled list Tuesday. The shortstop, who has been sidelined since July 1 with a left hamstring strain, went 1 for 4 and is hitting .218 with three homers in 81 games.
The Padres also welcomed back Gyorko on Monday and first baseman Yonder Alonso on Saturday.