Padres hope Ross can deliver again vs. Reds

SAN DIEGO — Tyson Ross is on the mound and the San Diego Padres are going for the series win against the Cincinnati Reds.

The Padres are hoping Ross can deliver the series victory over the Reds on Sunday afternoon when they send their right-handed minor league free agent-turned ace to the mound in the rubber match of a three-game set with Reds at Petco Park.

Ross (4-3, 3.29 ERA) will be facing Cincinnati right-hander Luis Castillo (4-5, 5.49 ERA).

But his record is a bit deceiving. The Padres are 8-3 when the 31-year-old Ross starts, and he has seven quality starts on the season, including in three of his last four outings.

Ross is in position to pitch the Padres to their second straight series victory and fifth win in six games. San Diego evened the series with an 8-2 victory on Saturday when Eric Lauer allowed a run in five innings and Manuel Margot drove in three runs.

“Tyson has given us a chance to win almost every time he’s gone out there,” Padres manager Andy Green said recently.

And to think the San Diego’s total investment in Ross is the $1 million contract he signed last Dec. 29. Of course, that is becoming a bit of a problem now.

If he continues his current path, Ross, a graduate of thoracic outlet surgery, figures to be a hot free agent this winter, playing into rumors that the Padres might trade him sometime this summer.

Historically, the Reds have had almost no success against Ross’s slider-heavy repertoire.

Ross has a 4-0 record and a 1.20 ERA in five previous appearances (four starts) against Cincinnati. The Reds have hit .167 against Ross with a .254 on-base percentage and a .186 slugging percentage for a .441 OPS.

Opposing hitters are batting .216 against Ross this season. He has allowed 26 runs (24 earned) on 53 hits and 24 walks with 68 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings for a 1.17 WHIP. Ross is 2-0 over his last four starts with a 2.63 ERA. His last start against Miami marked the first time in six turns that Ross didn’t go at least six innings and throw more than 100 pitches.

Paired against Ross will be the 25-year-old Castillo, who is in his second season. Sunday will be his 13th start of the season and 28th major league start.

It will also be his second outing against the Padres. Last Aug. 10 at Great American Ballpark, Castillo held the Padres to three runs on six hits and three walks with four strikeouts over six innings to get the decision in a 10-3 Reds victory.

Cincinnati has won four of Castillo’s last five starts, including a personal three-game winning streak for the right-hander between May 8 and 24. That was the longest winning streak of Castillo’s career and the longest by a Reds pitcher this season.

Castillo started his winning streak by retiring the first 14 hitters he faced May 8 in the Reds’ 7-2 victory over the New York Mets.

Castillo and Tyler Mahle, who defeated the Padres on Friday night, are tied for the Reds’ lead with four quality starts apiece.

After his first six starts of the season, Castillo was 1-1 with a 7.85 ERA and a .304 opponents’ batting average with the Reds splitting those games. But the Reds have gone 4-2 in his last six starts with Castillo going 3-2 with a 3.48 ERA and a .236 opponents’ batting average.