The San Diego Padres would like to have some breathing room atop the NL West. Ending a nine-game losing streak at Busch Stadium could help achieve that.
The Padres look to take advantage of the sputtering St. Louis Cardinals when they open a four-game series Thursday night.
San Diego (82-63) leads the West by one-half game over second-place San Francisco and is 2 1/2 ahead of Colorado with 17 games to play.
The Padres failed to complete a three-game sweep of the Rockies, falling 9-6 on Wednesday. That came after losing three of four to the Giants over the weekend.
“Every game for us is important,” San Diego manager Bud Black told the club’s official website. “But if you go on the road and win two of three, you would like to say you would take that.”
San Diego now faces the Cardinals (74-70) for the first time since taking two of three at home from May 25-27. However, the Padres haven’t won in St. Louis since Aug. 7, 2007.
The Cardinals may not pose the same threat as in the past, having lost seven of nine and currently are eight games behind first-place Cincinnati in the Central. St. Louis fell 7-3 at home to Chicago on Wednesday, and were swept at home in a three-game set by the Cubs for the first time since June 1988.
“We’re struggling,” manager Tony La Russa said. “The scores weren’t really close; that’s troubling. We’re all troubled.”
The right-hander, who has made 25 of 28 appearances in relief, won as a starter for the first time in more than year Saturday by limiting San Francisco to three hits with five strikeouts in six innings of a 1-0 win.
The surprising performance came five days after he yielded one run in four innings of a 4-2 win over the Dodgers.
“In any role we’ve thrust him into, he’s delivered,” Black said. “He’s been as impactful as a lot of guys down (in the bullpen) that get more acclaim.”
Stauffer, however, is 0-3 with a 10.13 ERA in his career against St. Louis.
The Cardinals will turn to Jake Westbrook(notes) (1-3, 3.78), who is still searching for his first win since Aug. 13. The right-hander is 0-3 with a 4.06 ERA over his last five starts, and has received only six runs of support.
Westbrook was solid Saturday, but backed by two runs in a 6-3, 12-inning loss at Atlanta. He yielded two runs in six innings for his seventh quality start in eight games since St. Louis acquired him in a three-team deal from Cleveland on July 31.
Due to spending nine-plus seasons in the AL, Westbrook has only faced the Padres twice, going 1-1 with a 1.08 ERA. He hasn’t pitched against San Diego since a road defeat with the Indians on June 9, 2005.
The trade that landed Westbrook with the Cardinals also sent Ryan Ludwick(notes) to San Diego. The right fielder is making his return to St. Louis after spending three-plus seasons with the Cardinals, hitting 84 homers and helping them to a division title last year.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Ludwick said. “The fans were great to me there. I really enjoyed my time in St. Louis.”
Ludwick is hitting .228 with four homers and 18 RBIs with the Padres.
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