The San Diego Padres are playing well as the season winds down, but their recent history at AT&T Park suggests it might not end as favorably.
San Diego needs a sweep to avoid losing the season series for a third straight year to the San Francisco Giants, whom they open a three-game set with on Friday night.
The Padres (75-84) have won 15 of 23 since Sept. 2, primarily due to reliable pitching. The staff has posted a collective 2.77 ERA over that span with the rotation providing 16 quality starts - including seven in a row after Robbie Erlin limited Arizona to two runs and three hits over seven innings of a 3-2, 11-inning win Thursday.
The bullpen has been just as strong, particularly over the last 13 games, yielding six earned runs in 36 1-3 innings.
Though San Diego has been one of baseball's worst road teams this year with a 30-48 record, the club has won five of its last seven away from home. San Francisco is a place the Padres have struggled, however, as they've gone 1-5 there this year while dropping 15 of 19 dating back to Aug. 24, 2011.
Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval have been instrumental in the Giants' success in the season series. Posey is 22 for 51 (.431) with two homers and 13 RBIs in 15 games, while Sandoval, who missed Thursday's 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers with flu-like symptoms, is 22 for 54 (.407) with five home runs and 14 RBIs in 13 matchups.
The Giants (74-85) are a win away from clinching their third straight season series over the Padres, holding a 9-7 advantage this year.
San Diego rookie Burch Smith (1-2, 5.87 ERA) will be given his final chance to stake his claim to a potential spot in next year's rotation. He's 1-1 with a 2.00 ERA in three starts since being called up at the beginning of the month, though he's walked 11 in 18 innings.
"There's a delivery component he has to handle," manager Bud Black told the team's official website. "He has to repeat it. I think sometimes he gets out of it and that leads to trouble. Repeating his delivery, his arm slot and release point."
Ryan Vogelsong (3-6, 5.90) will oppose him, looking to end a five-start skid in which he's 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA, allowing 37 hits over 26 2-3 innings.
He matched a career worst by yielding three homers along with six runs and eight hits over five innings of a 6-4 loss at San Diego on April 28. He was 3-1 with a 2.05 ERA in four matchups with San Diego last year.
He was the loser in a 6-0 final against the New York Yankees on Saturday, surrendering five runs and five hits in five innings. Three runs came in the third after perfect first and second frames.
"It was upsetting for me from a mental standpoint," Vogelsong said. "I didn't have a good mental game."
San Diego outfielder Mark Kotsay - set to retire at the end of the season - was honored prior to the Padres' final home contest Thursday. He was 0 for 3 with a walk but is 3 for 7 off Vogelsong in his career.
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