Padres-Cubs Preview

The Associated Press

The Chicago Cubs are putting together a strong stretch at Wrigley Field.

Starlin Castro has been impressive there all season.

Castro attempts to continue his offensive barrage at home Thursday, when the Cubs try to take this four-game set from the San Diego Padres.

Chicago (11-16) is hitting .237 while averaging 3.6 runs on the season. However, the Cubs have been much better in winning three of four at home, batting .316 with eight homers and 6.0 runs per game.

They had dropped five of their previous seven as hosts.

Castro, a two-time All-Star, has been their best hitter at Wrigley, compiling a .367 average with four doubles, three homers, one triple, eight RBIs and nine runs. He has hit safely in every home game.

The shortstop has a homer among his five hits in this series along with three RBIs and four runs. He's 10 for 26 with two homers, seven RBIs and seven runs over his last six home meetings with the Padres (10-17), and he was at it again in Wednesday's 6-2 win.

Castro had two hits with two runs while plating a run as the Cubs won for the seventh time in nine tries at home versus San Diego.

Travis Wood (2-1, 2.25 ERA) has been arguably Chicago's most reliable starter, but he may appreciate some help from the offense since he's been backed by seven total runs over five starts.

The left-hander has done his part over the last four, yielding two earned runs while completing at least six innings in each outing.

He was solid again Saturday, giving up two runs on a pair of homers in six innings of a 3-2 win at Miami.

Wood hasn't been very good in five games - four starts - against the Padres, going 0-1 with a 4.21 ERA, and he was hit hard in the only matchup at Wrigley on May 28. He surrendered six runs and four homers with three walks in five innings while not getting a decision in an 11-7 win.

Wood has also struggled against Chase Headley, who is 6 for 12 with two homers off him.

The third baseman also seems to enjoy visiting the North Side, hitting .400 with three homers and five RBIs in the last six games there.

He's 8 for 17 with three doubles, two homers and three RBIs over his past four games overall.

Will Venable is mired in an 0-for-18 slump over the past eight games, but both of his hits in seven at-bats versus Wood were homers.

Rookie Jedd Gyorko will face Wood for the first time, and he's batting .324 over the past nine games after connecting for his first career homer Wednesday.

"I was glad to get it over with," Gyorko said of the solo shot. "Hopefully it doesn't take another 100 at-bats to get my next one."

Eric Stults (2-2, 5.67) is expected to take the mound, and he's lost all three starts at Wrigley Field with a 7.24 ERA.

The left-hander, however, scattered five hits with five strikeouts in 5 1-3 innings of a 2-0 home victory in his most recent start against the Cubs on Aug. 6.

Stults hasn't come close to being that sharp of late, surrendering 10 runs in 11 innings while going 0-1 over his last two starts.

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