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SD@CHC: Stults allows three runs over five frames

The Braves and Padres remained relatively quiet at Thursday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, so they will still be extra familiar with each team's rosters when the two teams meet for the second time in a week on Friday night at Petco Park.

Atlanta, whose only move included acquiring utility man Emilio Bonifacio and reliever James Russell from the Cubs, took three of four from San Diego last weekend. Meanwhile, the Padres lost a veteran bat when they traded Chris Denorfia to the Mariners for Minor League outfielder Abraham Almonte and pitcher Stephen Kohlscheen.

Denorfia, who had a .311/.378/.471 line against left-handed pitching with the Padres from 2010-13, might have been a valuable asset as San Diego faces Braves lefty Mike Minor to open the series.

Minor has struggled recently, posting an 8.62 ERA in his last three starts, but those frustrating numbers will appear modest in comparison to his counterpart's Friday in Eric Stults.

After a string of a few encouraging starts, Stults is once again performing like he has for most of 2014 in what has been his most difficult season in the Majors. He leads the National League in losses (13) and ranks last among NL pitchers in WAR (-1.5), and has given up 12 earned runs across 16 innings in his last three outings.

Stults' last start was an odd one. He had a disastrous six-run third inning against the Braves, but he faced the minimum and didn't give up any hits in his other five frames.

"You know, you come to a ballpark, you never know what you're going to see," Padres manager Bud Black said. "Eric Stults threw five no-hit innings. And in one inning he gave up six hits. Really, he deserved a better fate."

Perhaps, but if Stults delivers a couple more disappointing outings, he'll likely be the odd man out of the Padres' rotation within the next couple weeks. Andrew Cashner (shoulder soreness) will likely start a rehab assignment next week, and Robbie Erlin is scheduled to start for Double-A San Antonio on Friday as he works his way back from a two-month absence due to elbow soreness.

Stults will be backed by the lowest-producing offense in baseball in many statistical measures -- runs per game (3.16), batting average (.221), on-base percentage (.280) and slugging percentage (.341) -- but entering Thursday, they've scored the most runs (59) of any NL teams since the All-Star break.

"It's great to have speed, but speed has to get on base," Black said. "We have to do a better job of getting on base as a group. We'd like to see our on-base percentage of all our hitters go up.

"We're seeing better at-bats since the All-Star break. We gotta continue it, but it's good to see some guys getting more hits, their average rising and on-base percentage rising."

Padres: Gyorko coming back strong
Jedd Gyorko has endured one heck of a sophomore slump in 2014. Before he was forced to the disabled list with plantar fasciitis in early June, he ranked last among all qualified hitters in batting average (.162) and on-base percentage (.213).

But spending nearly two months away from the diamond might have been exactly what Gyorko needed to reset. Gyorko is 7-for-14 in four games since returning Monday from his stint on the disabled list. He was 3-for-5 with a solo homer Wednesday, falling a triple short of the cycle, and homered again Thursday.

"It obviously feels good to swing the bat the way I have the last few nights," said Gyorko, who hadn't collected five hits in a three-game span this season."It's something to build on; still got a long way to go."

"It was a tough struggle for Jedd prior to going on the disabled list, no doubt about it," Black said. "It's still early to tell, but the initial signs are pretty good the way he's swinging here."

Braves: Back keeps Heyward out of Dodgers series
‪Jason Heyward arrived in Los Angeles hoping that lower back discomfort would not prevent him from missing more than Tuesday's series opener against the Dodgers. However, the outfielder missed all three games as Atlanta was swept.

Heyward has missed three straight starts and four in a span of five games. Dating back to Sunday, his lower back has limited him to the four innings he played Monday against the Padres.

"I don't see this being a [disabled list] thing; we haven't even talked about that," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I'm going to try to lay off him a little bit and give his [back] a chance to calm down."

Gonzalez said he will likely give Heyward an extra day to rest once he says he is no longer being bothered by the back discomfort that he has felt since ranging into foul territory to attempt to make catch against the Marlins on July 24.

Worth noting
‪• Padres outfielder Jeff Francoeur will face his former team again Friday. In 14 at-bats this season entering Thursday, he's only collected one hit.

‪• In nine at-bats against Stults, Justin Upton has three hits and four RBIs. Comments