Astros-Padres Preview

Aside from a disappointing showing in the opener of this week’s

four-game set, the San Diego Padres are starting to show signs of

improvement.

They’ll try to keep playing well Wednesday afternoon against the

major league-worst Houston Astros, losers of 14 of 16.

After going 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position during

Monday’s 2-0 loss, San Diego (37-55) bounced back with an 8-2

victory Tuesday. Ross Ohlendorf improved to 3-0 with six strong

innings and Yonder Alonso went 2 for 3 with his first homer at

Petco Park. Batting .407 with 16 RBIs in his last 15 games, Alexi

Amarista matched a career high with three hits.

While San Diego ranks last in the majors with 328 runs, it’s

picked up the pace of late. The Padres, winners of nine of 14, have

scored at least seven runs in three of their last four games.

“I think the past month has been a lot better,” Alonso said.

“The younger guys, especially myself, are more comfortable. You’re

seeing it from the younger guys, we’re having better at-bats. If

you have a group of guys having good at-bats against a pitcher, any

time you do that, it just gets better and better.”

The Astros (34-57) snapped a 13-game road losing streak with

Monday’s win, but failed to keep the momentum going. Houston has

been outscored 78-37 and is batting .152 with runners in scoring

position during its 2-14 overall skid.

The Astros could hard a time again Wednesday versus Padres

starter Clayton Richard (6-10, 3.83 ERA). The left-hander is 4-3

with a 2.68 ERA over his last seven starts, allowing more than

three earned runs just once in that stretch.

Richard, who threw seven innings of one-run ball during a 1-0

loss at Houston on June 27, suffered another hard-luck defeat

Friday in a 2-1 road loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He gave up

two runs and five hits in 7 1-3 innings.

“It’s disappointing to throw well and just come up a little bit

short,” he said. “I just want to continue to progress and keep on

getting better as a starting pitcher, get deep into games and give

our team a chance to win.”

Richard will be opposed by Wandy Rodriguez (7-7, 3.51), who

wasn’t very sharp Friday in his first outing following the All-Star

break, allowing four runs and seven hits over six innings of a 5-1

loss at San Francisco.

The left-hander had gone 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA over his previous

four starts versus San Diego before surrendering five runs in 6 2-3

innings of Houston’s 8-7, 10-inning loss June 25.

Despite going 3-3 with a 5.23 ERA over his last nine outings,

Rodriguez’s name continues to come up in trade rumors. He appears

likely to be moved prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade

deadline.

It’s unknown if Rodriguez will have to face Carlos Quentin. The

San Diego left fielder, who made his season debut May 28, has

missed the last two games with soreness in his surgically repaired

right knee. Quentin batted .322 with seven homers in his first 26

games, but is 5 for 37 (.135) with one home run in his last 10.