The Arizona Diamondbacks kept themselves on the fringe of the playoff conversation after taking two of three from the NL West leaders.
They would be a much more serious contender if they could figure out a way to beat the San Diego Padres.After being swept in the last two series, the Diamondbacks try to avoid losing seven straight games to the Padres for the first time in franchise history in Friday night's opener at Petco Park.Following a 2-9 stretch that put a dent in their postseason chances, the Diamondbacks (68-70) bounced back with victories in their last two games in San Francisco. After an 11-inning win on Tuesday, Trevor Cahill took a no-hitter into the seventh in Wednesday's 6-2 victory to pull Arizona within 9 1/2 games of the Giants. It is also 6 1/2 back of the NL's second wild-card spot."I think we have some character and we have some grit," manager Kirk Gibson told the Diamondbacks' official website. "The frustrating thing is you could look back and we probably could have won every game we played (on the trip)."Arizona hasn't had as many close calls lately with the Padres (64-74), getting outscored 42-20 in losing the last six meetings.San Diego's Yonder Alonso is hitting .400 with two home runs and nine RBIs during the winning streak, while Alexi Amarista and Chase Headley are each batting .333 with a homer and seven, and six RBIs, respectively.Headley had a run-scoring double in Wednesday's 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, and is batting .354 with five home runs and 21 RBIs in his last 19 games. The Padres took two of three at Dodger Stadium, but are still 10 1/2 games back of a wild card.Although San Diego's chances of making the playoffs are far less realistic than Arizona's, its 12-4 record since Aug. 19, is tied with the Los Angeles Angels for the best in baseball.The Padres, winners of 16 of 21 at Petco Park, give the ball in the opener to Andrew Cashner (3-3, 3.44 ERA), who is making his first start since leaving his outing in Arizona on July 3 after two innings with a strained right lat muscle. That was his third start after 27 relief appearances.In three rehab starts for Triple-A Tucson, the right-hander allowed three runs while striking out eight over nine innings."I'm ready to go," Cashner told the Padres' official website. "I got my three rehabilitation outings in and felt good. I worked on some stuff, getting strike one, following it up with strike two, going after hitters early in the count."Cashner, who has 45 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings for San Diego, will have to throw strikes in order to pitch deep Friday, as he's expected to be limited to around 70 pitches.The Diamondbacks counter with Tyler Skaggs (1-1, 2.60), who is making his fourth major league start.At Dodger Stadium on Saturday, the left-hander gave up one run and five hits in five innings of a 2-1 loss, but didn't get the decision. His command was improved, as he walked one after issuing seven base on balls and hitting two batters in his first two starts.Skaggs' likely batterymate, Miguel Montero, has been locked in lately, batting .393 with a homer and four RBIs in his last six games. He is 1 for 6 with two strikeouts lifetime against Cashner, though, and is hitting .136 during the losing streak to the Padres.