Padres-Pirates Preview

Entering his second start of August, Tyson Ross has already blown by his previous high for innings pitched in a professional season.

He certainly isn’t slowing down, and he’ll try to continue to show he’s only getting stronger Sunday when the San Diego Padres conclude their three-game visit with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Ross (10-10, 2.62 ERA) hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in any of his last nine starts, and his 1.62 ERA in that span ranks second in the NL to Clayton Kershaw.

He’s 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA in his last four, though his three-start winning streak ended in Sunday’s 4-3 victory over Atlanta after allowing two runs and five hits while striking out seven in six innings.

Prior to this season, the right-hander reached his big league high of 125 innings pitched in 2013. In the minors, he threw 136 1-3 innings in 2009. This season, he’s logged 154 2-3 in 24 starts.

The numbers certainly back up his personal assessment of his strength.

"I am aware I’m higher than I’ve been in the past, but I feel good, I feel strong and I actually feel like I’m getting better," Ross told MLB’s official website. "I’m taking the season as an opportunity to learn and continue to grow. Every outing is a learning experience."

Ross is 0-1 with a 4.05 ERA in two career starts against Pittsburgh. Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker have both homered off him, but both have been out of the lineup with injuries. McCutchen (rib) has missed five games, but Walker (back) could be nearing a return to the lineup after pinch hitting Saturday.

San Diego (53-62), winner of 15 of 18 in Pittsburgh since Sept. 19, 2009, evened the series with Saturday’s 2-1 win despite collecting just four hits.

The Padres have totaled three runs and nine hits in the series, but they’ve also won seven of 10 with elite pitching. The bullpen has led the way with one earned run allowed over 33 1-3 innings (0.27 ERA).

Pittsburgh (62-54) has also been limited to three runs in the two games, and the loss dropped it 2 1/2 games behind Milwaukee for the NL Central lead.

Josh Harrison remained hot at the plate with a 2-for-4 night and is batting .464 over a 13-game hitting streak, the longest of his career and the longest this season for the club.

They’ll try to switch the offense back on for Charlie Morton, whose winless streak reached six games in Tuesday’s 6-3 loss to Miami. Morton (5-10, 3.43) wasn’t stuck with the decision after limiting the Marlins to one run and six hits over seven innings.

The 30-year-old did beat San Diego on June 2 after surrendering two runs and three hits in five innings. He’s 3-0 with a 1.78 ERA and .169 opponents’ average in four starts against the Padres.

Will Venable is 0 for 9 against Morton, but Everth Cabrera is 4 for 6 and Seth Smith is 4 for 8 with a home run. The rest of San Diego’s active position players and Ross combine for a 1-for-22 mark.

Cabrera is also batting .414 in seven games this month.

Padres first baseman Tommy Medica left Saturday’s game after being hit on the back of the helmet by a pitch. He’s said to be OK, but his self-assessment makes his return Sunday sound questionable.

"I’m a little light-headed but it could have been a lot worse," Medica said. "It’s one of those things where they said that symptoms can still happen in a few days."