Cardinals-Padres Preview

Every once in awhile, baseball’s worst offense gets a jolt that produces plenty of runs.

The San Diego Padres have shown consistently that their pitching can shut down the opposition, though.

Rookie Odrisamer Despaigne takes the mound Thursday as the Padres go for a three-game home sweep of the slumping St. Louis Cardinals.

San Diego (48-59) has scored by far the fewest runs in the majors, but it busted out Wednesday and tied its season high with 16 hits in a 12-1 rout of St. Louis.

The Padres set their season best with 13 runs in a win over the Cubs last Thursday and have scored in double digits four times this season. Jedd Gyorko and Will Venable each homered and drove in four runs Wednesday, while rookie Yangervis Solarte had four hits.

Solarte is hitting .364 with two homers and eight RBIs in eight games since being acquired in the trade that sent Chase Headley to the New York Yankees.

”We haven’t had it enough, but it’s great to see," manager Bud Black said of the offensive outburst. "It starts with starting pitching, and Jesse (Hahn) pitched a great game."

Though San Diego’s offense has struggled again this season, its pitching staff ranks third in the majors with a 3.14 ERA. The Padres’ starters have a 2.88 ERA over their last seven after Hahn pitched seven strong innings Wednesday.

Despaigne (2-2, 1.66 ERA) has been solid in six starts since making his major league debut June 23, including being four outs away from a no-hitter in the Padres’ 2-1 win over the New York Mets on July 20.

He wasn’t nearly as good Saturday while giving up five runs – two earned – and walking five in 3 2-3 innings of a 5-3 loss at Atlanta. He had allowed five runs total prior to that start.

”It’s one game,” Black said. "He’s made how many major league starts? Six is a small sample size. Five pretty good ones and one where he didn’t throw strikes. That’s why we keep playing.”

The right-hander will get his first look at the Cardinals (56-50), who are 2 1/2 games back of NL Central-leading Milwaukee after losing for the sixth time in eight games.

St. Louis has the second-worst offense in the majors behind the Padres. It scored just one run for the third straight contest, plating Matt Adams in the seven inning after San Diego failed to turn a double play on Peter Bourjos’ grounder.

”It was probably our ugliest loss of the year. That’s the best way to describe it,” manager Mike Matheny said.

After allowing their most runs in more than two months, the Cardinals will send Shelby Miller to the mound.

Miller (7-8, 4.20) allowed two runs and three hits in 5 2-3 innings of the Cardinals’ 6-3 win over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday, marking the fifth straight start he’s failed to complete six innings. He’s 0-2 with a 6.85 ERA in that stretch.

The right-hander made a relief appearance July 20, though Matheny said that move simply was to give Miller added rest following the All-Star break.

Miller thought he pitched well in his return to the rotation, retiring 16 of the first 18 batters he faced.

”When you get in a groove and you’re feeling pretty good, in a rhythm, you just keep going,” he said.

Miller was erratic in his only start against the Padres, though, throwing 107 pitches over 5 2-3 innings while giving up three runs and walking three in a 4-2 road loss May 20, 2013.