The San Diego Padres have experienced setback after setback to their pitching staff, with Yu Darvish's relegation to the 15-day injured list the latest blow.
However, right-hander Seth Lugo (5-6, 3.70 ERA) remains one of the bright spots. He will face the host St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night in the middle game of a three-game series.
The Padres won the opener 4-1 on Monday to snap a three-game losing streak.
Lugo has thrown a combined 12 scoreless innings over his past two starts, against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Miami Marlins. He has allowed just eight hits and four walks while striking out 13, doing his best to keep San Diego's dwindling playoff hopes alive.
The Padres have been diminished by injuries to Darvish (inflamed right elbow) and Joe Musgrove (inflamed right shoulder). Michael Wacha (inflamed shoulder) returned earlier this month after missing six weeks.
"We keep pushing until we get it right," Padres manager Bob Melvin said. "A lot of these guys have had extreme workloads. ... We're starting to get a little banged up."
Melvin loved what he saw from Lugo in the right-hander's Wednesday start against the Marlins, a 4-0 San Diego win. Lugo and four relievers combined on a four-hitter.
"Aggressive, he tweaked his slider a little bit, curveball, mixing his pitches up a little bit, obviously up and down, both sides (of the plate). Had really good stuff today," Melvin said. "We've seen him pitch like this quite often."
Lugo is 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA in 10 career appearances against St. Louis, including two starts.
The Cardinals have lost 10 of their past 12 games. They have dropped their past four games by the combined scored of 26-4.
They will counter on Tuesday Lugo with left-hander Zack Thompson (3-5, 3.86 ERA), who has shuffled between starting and relieving. Now that he is needed in the rotation, he has expanded his pitch arsenal to include a slider. That plays off his fastball, which can touch 98 mph, and his curveball.
"I think the most recent revelation on that was probably over the past four to six months trying to find what works for me," Thompson said. "I was looking for more punchouts after last year and just trying to learn more about the way I throw things. I'm good at the things that are comfortable.
"Some guys can do the sinker-slider, throw these big sweepers, and that's not comfortable for me being a vertical guy. I don't know if there's a better blueprint for a high-slot lefty."
Thompson is still building endurance after making his shift from the bullpen. In five August appearances (three starts), he has a 2.84 ERA with six runs allowed on 19 hits in 19 innings. He has 23 strikeouts and just three walks during that span.
"The main thing with Thompson is mentality," Cardinals catcher Andrew Knizner said. "He's embracing the opportunity. He's being aggressive. He's going after guys. He's not playing around."
This will be Thompson's first career outing against the Padres.
Thompson will try to limit San Diego's Garrett Cooper, who was the offensive star of Monday's game with three hits and three RBIs. Cooper is 11-for-23 (.478) during a six-game hitting streak.
—Field Level Media