The Padres return home to Petco Park on Tuesday to face the Cardinals for the start of a brief six-game homestand that will see them give the ball to their most successful pitcher this season -- All-Star Tyson Ross.
How good has the 27-year-old been? Consider that Ross hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of his last seven starts. In five July outings, Ross is 3-2 with a 1.03 ERA, and opponents are hitting .194 against him.
In Ross' most recent start against the Cubs, the Padres gave him some rare run support, scoring 12 times while he was in the game. Prior to that, San Diego had scored a total of 10 runs for Ross over his previous nine starts.
"That's always huge," Ross said. "When you can go out there and have an early lead, it puts the pressure on the other team. At that point, it's just about throwing strikes and getting ahead, putting guys away. The early lead was great."
Ross' repertoire consisted of a front-door sinker to Chicago's five lefties, with a fastball and sharp slider mix, which he called his "go-to combo." Seven of his 11 strikeouts were on sliders, and two were called looking.
"It's a devastating two-pitch combination," said Padres manager Bud Black. "I like the fact that some of the sliders were a little bit slower, had a little bit of a bigger break to them. That was good. Good fastball with some life -- he threw some fastballs up by some guys, he threw some fastballs on the inside corner to lefties that had comeback action for a called third strike."
Lance Lynn will get the nod for the Cardinals, and he has become a beacon of consistency for a team searching for exactly that.
As the Cardinals go back and forth between gaining ground on first-place Milwaukee and losing it in the National League Central, Lynn has become a focal point of the team's starting rotation behind ace Adam Wainwright. That trend continued in Lynn's last trip to the mound, but his effort -- 6 1/3 innings in which he allowed two runs (one earned) -- went unrewarded in a shutout loss to Tampa Bay.
"I knew early on that he had his good stuff and that I needed to be better than I was tonight," Lynn said after the start. "Some nights you just get outpitched, even though you pitch all right."
Cardinals: Holliday heating up in second half
Matt Holliday has a history of hitting well in the second half of the season, and that trend has continued into the first eight games since this season's break.
After hitting .265 with six home runs and 45 RBIs in 93 games during the first half of the season, Holliday has hit .310 (9-for-29) in the first eight games out of the break, watching his power surge with four homers and eight RBIs.
Last season, Holliday hit an NL-best .348 with nine home runs and 47 RBIs in his 58 games following the All-Star break.
Padres: Pop from the backstops
With Rene Rivera's home run Sunday, the Padres have now had 16 home runs from the catcher position this season.
The 16 homers tied the Padres for the third most among all Major League clubs with the Braves and Mariners. The Reds (19) and Indians (17) lead the way.
Yasmani Grandal has nine home runs for the Padres, followed by Rivera with eight and Nick Hundley with three. Hundley was traded to the Orioles on May 24.
Grandal was behind the plate for San Diego on Monday in the series finale against the Braves. He went 1-for-4 with a single and three strikeouts.
• In limited action against Lynn, Padres hitters have fared well, hitting .375 (9-for-24) against the right-hander. Will Venable is 4-for-7 against Lynn with a solo home run.
• The Cardinals and Padres will meet for the first time Tuesday, but it won't take long for the second series between the clubs. The Padres will arrive in St. Louis for a four-game set on Aug. 14.
Alex Halsted is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.