A single swing of the bat was the difference in the San Diego Padres' series-opening win over the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday. Given the scheduled pitchers for Wednesday night's contest, the margin for error may be that thin yet again.
Johnny Cueto looks to continue his strong pitching against the Padres and Ian Kennedy, who comes off his best outing of the year.
Mike Leake and Andrew Cashner each tossed gems Tuesday. Cincinnati's struggling offense outhit San Diego, 7-3, but was just 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position in a 2-1 loss. The Reds (17-20) have totaled 17 runs and hit .200 while losing four of six.
"Those are what we're most upset about," catcher Brayan Pena said. "We know we're better than that. Our starters are doing a tremendous job giving us a chance."
Cueto (3-2, 1.43 ERA) hasn't been backed with the best run support either, receiving no runs in either of his losses and getting a total of six runs of support in his three no-decisions.
The right-hander has been brilliant, throwing at least eight innings in five straight starts and at least seven in all eight. He went seven innings just four times in 11 starts last year when he battled injuries.
Baseball's ERA leader among starters, Cueto is limiting opponents to a major league-low .138 batting average - .043 lower than the next-best figure.
Cueto shut down a Colorado club leading the majors in batting average and slugging percentage in his last start Friday, allowing two runs and five hits over eight innings while striking out eight in a 4-3 win.
"It's scary to say, but each start he's getting better," Pena told the team's official website.
He'll be looking to shake off some past struggles versus San Diego, however, as he is 2-2 with a 6.00 ERA in five career matchups - his highest ERA against a team he's faced more than once.
The Padres (19-21) extended their season-best winning streak to four games Monday. Though Leake kept San Diego's lineup in check, Chase Headley homered off Aroldis Chapman in the ninth in the closer's second appearance of the season.
Headley's home run was his second in three games since returning from a strained right calf. He had just two in 70 at-bats prior to landing on the disabled list.
"I don't think he was quite hitting on all cylinders when the season started," manager Bud Black said.
Headley has also had some success against Cueto, going 7 for 15.
Kennedy (2-4, 3.12) matched a career high with 12 strikeouts in his last start, a no-decision in a 3-1 loss to Miami on Thursday. He retired the first 14 batters he faced and yielded one run and four hits over seven innings and also connected for his first career home run.
The right-hander is 3-0 with a 1.53 ERA in four career starts against the Reds. He gave up two runs and three hits over eight innings without a decision in Cincinnati on Aug. 11.
Seth Smith accounted for San Diego's other two hits Monday, extending his hitting streak to a career best-matching nine games. He has a 1.585 OPS and eight doubles during his run.
Todd Frazier hit his 11th double Monday to extend his hitting streak to a career-best 12 games.
Chapman's three losses to the Padres are his most against one team.