Diamondbacks-Padres Preview

The Associated Press

Superb starting pitching has the San Diego Padres gaining ground on the NL West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks, and on the brink of their longest winning streak of the season.

Giving the ball to Jason Marquis may keep them rolling.

Marquis attempts to extend his longest winning streak in nine years Saturday night against the Diamondbacks.

The Padres (33-34) have won four in a row thanks largely to a 1.71 ERA from the starters, who have each gone at least seven innings in each contest.

That's helped San Diego move within four games of Arizona for the division lead, though it also has San Francisco and Colorado to pass.

Eric Stults provided the latest gem Friday, tossing a two-hitter in a 2-1 win over the Diamondbacks (37-30) in the opener of this three-game series at Petco Park.

"Anytime you start you want to finish the game," Stults said.

Marquis (8-2. 3.59 ERA) hasn't done that this year, but he's won all seven decisions over his last nine starts behind a 3.15 ERA. That includes going 5-0 with a 2.50 ERA in six games at Petco Park.

The 34-year-old right-hander's overall winning streak is his longest since a career-best 11-0 run over 17 starts with St. Louis in 2004.

His outstanding run may be why the Padres opted to move him up a day, bumping Clayton Richard to the series finale.

Marquis battled through his latest outing Monday, allowing two runs and a season high-tying five walks while throwing 108 pitches in 7 2-3 innings of a 7-6 win over Atlanta.

"He weaves his way through a game. It's great," manager Bud Black said.

Marquis did that to beat Arizona on May 3, yielding three runs and four hits while issuing five walks in six innings of a 7-6 win.

Another strong performance may be important because the offense has been held to a .214 average during the four-game win streak. The Padres haven't had a longer one since an eight-game run in August.

Logan Forsythe has been one of the team's few bright spots on offense lately. He's 4 for 12 with a homer and five RBIs in four games after spending the first 2 1/2 months of the season on the disabled list recovering plantar fasciitis.

The second baseman singled home both of San Diego's runs in the sixth inning Friday. Forsythe is 2 for 3 with a homer off Wade Miley, the Diamondbacks' scheduled starter.

Arizona, which has dropped four of six, has been feast or famine at the plate while splitting the first four of a six-game road trip. The offense has 31 hits and 13 runs in those victories compared to six and four, respectively, in the defeats.

This contest will see manager Kirk Gibson return from a one-game suspension for his involvement in Tuesday's brawl with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Gibson is turning to Miley (4-5, 4.89), who is 1-4 with a 7.52 ERA in six career starts against the Padres.

The left-hander lost to them twice last month, surrendering 11 runs and 16 hits in 8 2-3 innings. The most recent of those meetings was a 10-4 loss May 25, when he was tagged for seven runs in a season-low 3 2-3 innings.

That was part of Miley's four-game losing streak, during which he compiled a 9.14 ERA. However, he's since posted two straight quality starts - both Arizona victories - while going 1-0.

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