Padres-Rockies Preview

The Associated Press

The San Diego Padres are showing signs of improvement at the plate.

Seth Smith is a big part of that.

The outfielder looks to continue his offensive surge and help the visiting Padres to their seventh win in nine games Sunday against the Colorado Rockies.

San Diego (21-23) is last in the majors with a .221 average. However, it's been more productive during a 6-2 stretch, hitting .252 with 11 homers and scoring 5.1 runs per game - more than two higher than its season average.

Smith has been a catalyst for the Padres, batting .488 in 13 games while 13 of his 21 hits in that stretch have gone for extra bases.

He connected for a two-run shot Saturday while also drawing a walk and scoring in an 8-5 win.

"You're always trying to add on regardless of where you are but especially here at Coors," Smith said. "A crooked number is waiting every inning, so you've got to try to hold them down and expand the lead any chance you get."

Smith, a member of the Rockies (24-20) from 2007-11, is 9 for 21 with four doubles, two homers, seven RBIs and seven runs in seven meetings with his former team. He's 2 for 2 with a double off scheduled starter Juan Nicasio.

San Diego's Carlos Quentin may be back in the lineup after hitting a two-run, pinch-hit homer in the seventh Saturday. He's gone 3 for 10 in four games after missing the first six weeks because of a left knee injury.

"When you come back, you're looking to get hits to put yourself in a nice rhythm out there," Quentin said.

Nicasio (4-2, 3.77 ERA) is 3-0 with a 2.89 ERA with 41 strikeouts in 37 1-3 innings over six career starts against the Padres. The right-hander beat them again April 15, yielding two runs in six innings of a 3-2 road victory.

Nicasio is 3-0 with a 3.10 ERA in five home starts, winning the last two while yielding one run and five hits in 12 innings.

However, he took the loss in a 4-1 defeat at Cincinnati last Sunday, giving up four runs - two earned - in six innings.

Troy Tulowitzki has four hits in this series after getting three Saturday, including a solo home run. His .400 average leads the majors by 53 points over Philadelphia's Chase Utley.

Tulowitzki has gone 13 for 30 (.433) with seven RBIs and eight runs in his last eight home matchups with San Diego.

The Padres are expected to send Donn Roach (1-0, 2.57) to the mound for a spot start after Andrew Cashner went on the disabled list with soreness in his right elbow. Cashner is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday.

Roach has made all 12 of his appearances out of the bullpen, totaling 21 innings while lasting more than two only once.

The rookie right-hander allowed three hits while tossing the final two innings of a 5-0 loss at Cincinnati on Thursday.

"He can probably give us 60 pitches that we can feel good about," manager Bud Black told the team's official website. "He threw two innings the other night and had two days off. He has started in his past and he's got a sinkerball where, if it's working, he should be efficient. We'll find out."

Roach pitched one scoreless inning of relief in a 3-2 home loss to the Rockies on April 15.

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