Coming off a winning homestand, the Colorado Rockies open a nine-game trip hoping to continue their season success against the San Diego Padres.
Off the bat, the Rockies look to win consecutive road games for the first time in more than two months Friday night against the Padres.
Colorado (66-75) is on the verge of missing the postseason for a fourth straight year, but not because of its play versus San Diego. The Rockies hold a 96-62 scoring advantage while winning 12 of 16 from the Padres (62-77), and are 5-1 at Petco Park this season.
After winning their finale at Miami last month, the Rockies are in position to win two straight road contests for the first time since June 22-23.
Colorado completed a 5-4 homestand with Wednesday's 7-5 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Michael Cuddyer had two hits with two RBIs to raise his average to .331.
In the mix for the NL batting title, Cuddyer is 9 for 15 with six RBIs in September. The 34-year-old never hit better than .284 in any of his previous 12 seasons.
"I think it's a matter of combining his wisdoms with the skills that are still intact at his age," manager Walt Weiss told the Rockies' official website. "He's put together a (heck) of a year."
Cuddyer has a .435 on-base percentage in 11 games against the Padres, but he's far from the only one who's tormented San Diego pitching. Dexter Fowler is hitting .442 with four homers and 17 runs scored, while Wilin Rosario has four homers and 18 RBIs in 12 games in the season series.
Rockies starter Juan Nicasio (8-7, 4.82 ERA) is 2-0 with a 3.20 ERA in four career starts versus San Diego. In his only one this season, he allowed two runs and struck out seven in six innings of an 8-7, 10-inning victory June 9.
The right-hander went 2-0 with a 1.53 ERA during a three-start stretch before he gave up six in 4 1-3 innings of an 8-3 loss to Cincinnati on Saturday.
"I need to throw more strikes,'' Nicasio said. "Ninety-(four) pitches just into the fifth inning is too many pitches.''
San Diego third baseman and Colorado native Chase Headley is 6 for 9 with two home runs against Nicasio, but went 0 for 12 when the Padres dropped two of three at Coors Field last month.
In Headley's first game back Wednesday after missing six with back spasms, he homered in a 13-5 loss to San Francisco. The Padres yielded three runs while winning the first two games of the set before the Giants hit six homers in the finale.
Thanks to September roster expansions, rookie Burch Smith (0-1, 11.37) returns from the minors hoping to fare better than he did in his first three major league starts. Embarking on his fourth stint with the Padres this season, the right-hander has appeared in six games and gave up 15 runs, 16 hits and walked six in 7 1-3 innings of three May starts.
Smith, however, went 5-1 with a 3.39 ERA in 12 starts for Triple-A Tucson.
"I'll get back out there and go at it differently this time," he told the Padres' official website. "I'm going to try and execute my pitches and not just try to blow the ball by guys."
This will be his first appearance against the Rockies.