If Edinson Volquez continues his turnaround, the San Diego Padres have a good chance to record their longest winning streak of the season.
Volquez seeks a fourth straight win and the Padres look for their fifth in a row Friday night in the opener of a three-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
After a 5-15 start, San Diego (16-18) has turned things around by winning 11 of 14 heading into this series.
The pitching staff has been outstanding during the current four-game winning streak, allowing two runs and 21 hits in 36 innings.
Volquez kicked off that stretch Sunday, allowing one run and four hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 5-1 win over Arizona, before San Diego's other starters posted a 0.42 ERA in a three-game sweep of Miami this week.
"I thought the starting pitching has stepped up," manager Bud Black said. "They all pitched well. The pitching sort of set the tone and the defense was outstanding."
Now the Padres go for their longest win streak since a run of eight straight Aug. 19-27, and Volquez (3-3, 5.50 ERA) tries to win four consecutive outings for the first time in his nine-year career.
Since going 0-3 with an 11.68 ERA over his first three starts, Volquez is 3-0 with a 2.49 ERA over his last four.
"The last three starts have been much more strike-heavy with the secondary pitches," Black said. "The fastball command is improved, also. You put it all together, three wins and a lot of zeroes."
The right-hander won at Tropicana Field in his only career start against the Rays in 2011, giving up three runs and four hits over 6 1-3 innings in a 4-3 victory while with Cincinnati.
He'll try to slow down a Tampa Bay offense that has scored 72 runs over its last 11 games while batting .301 with 15 homers.
The Rays (16-18) salvaged a four-game split with Toronto when Luke Scott drew a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the 10th inning for a 5-4 victory Thursday.
"In that case, a walk is as good as a hit," said Scott, hitting .348 with two homers and seven RBIs in nine games since coming off the disabled list.
Evan Longoria has keyed Tampa Bay's offensive surge, batting .431 with 11 extra-base hits and 12 RBIs in his last 12 games. He's 9 for 18 with two homers and eight RBIs this week.
James Loney is also on a tear, batting .449 over his last 13 games. Loney, though, has only one hit in nine career at_bats against Volquez.
Tampa Bay scheduled starter Alex Cobb (4-2, 2.79) is 1-2 with a 4.74 ERA on the road, but he's won all three of his starts in St. Petersburg while posting a 1.17 ERA.
The right-hander gave up three hits over 8 1-3 innings in a 3-0 victory over the New York Yankees in his last outing at Tropicana Field, but he's since yielded seven runs and 18 hits - including four homers - over 12 1-3 innings in two road starts.
Cobb has never faced the Padres, who have split 12 all-time meetings with the Rays but have won all three of their series at Tropicana Field.
Carlos Quentin has hit .314 with five homers and 10 RBIs in his last 10 games in St. Petersburg, but he's hitless in 19 at_bats this month.
Teammate Chase Headley, though, is batting .400 during a 13-game hitting streak and is 6 for 12 this week.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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