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DET@SD: Ross pitches seven innings of one-run ball

In their final game at San Diego's Petco Park during the 2013 season, the Giants scored 13 runs. That might be a reasonable goal for the entire three-game series they'll play against the San Diego Padres starting Friday.

The Padres rank an impressive third in the National League with a 2.89 ERA, including 2.50 at home. San Francisco won't have to face Padres ace Andrew Cashner, who owns a 1.27 ERA. But the Giants still must confront some challenging hurlers as they attempt to win their third series in a row.

The Giants will begin the series against Tyson Ross, whose career record against them (0-2, 4.50 ERA in five appearances) is somewhat deceiving. On May 19, 2012, Ross matched Ryan Vogelsong zero for zero and maintained a shutout for six innings. But Ross disappeared after allowing a couple of baserunners in the seventh as the Giants prevailed, 4-0.

Ross' 3.12 ERA this year indicates that his truncated shutout against the Giants wasn't ancient history. He has allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his three starts this year and is coming off a victorious seven-inning effort in a 5-1 decision over Detroit last Sunday.

The Giants and Eric Stults, San Diego's starter on Saturday, are no strangers to each other. The left-hander's 15 starts and 17 overall appearances against San Francisco are his most against any Major League team. Despite a 5.21 career ERA against the Giants, Stults has found a way to beat them more often than not, posting a 6-4 mark.

Left-hander Robbie Erlin, who's scheduled to start Sunday's series finale for San Diego, can legitimately approach this assignment with confidence. As a rookie last Sept. 3, Erlin blanked the Giants on three hits through five innings before faltering in the sixth and being charged with a pair of runs.

Of course, the Giants' rotation is more experienced and celebrated, composed entirely of former All-Stars. Thus, the starters' recent improvement was somewhat expected.

Giants starters compiled a 3.38 ERA the first time through the rotation. That figure ballooned to 6.14 the second time around. But the staff demonstrated its potential during the turn that ended with Vogelsong's one-run, six-inning performance Wednesday, posting a 3.16 ERA. Matt Cain, who took the loss despite allowing just one run in seven innings of Saturday's 1-0 loss to Colorado, gets the start in Friday's opener.

Being so pitching-oriented means that the Giants play plenty of close games. In fact, they've participated in seven consecutive one-run decisions, the most in franchise history since they played eight in a row in 1910.

"It's good for these guys to know that every play, every pitch counts," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

Giants: Affeldt feels strong again
Sixteen games into the regular season, Jeremy Affeldt experienced Opening Day. That is, his own personal season opener.

Having overcome a sprained right knee -- and a serious groin injury before that -- Affeldt excelled Thursday in his first appearance of the year, pitching two shutout innings as the Giants fell to Los Angeles, 2-1.

"I was blessed to be able to get out there," said Affeldt, who was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list Wednesday.

Pitching again was a long time coming for Affeldt, 34. In his mind, he essentially was sidelined since last July, when the groin injury and subsequent surgery put him on the DL. Affeldt pitched in only 39 games last year -- his fewest since 2004, when he made 38 appearances as a part-time starter.

Affeldt concluded his first inning of work, the eighth, with a nifty play. He grabbed Scott Van Slyke's one-out comebacker and noticed that Adrian Gonzalez, the runner at second base, had strayed too far from the bag. Affeldt ran at him to start a rundown that turned into a double play when the Giants caught Van Slyke at second base.

Padres: Desperately seeking offense
Padres starting pitching has allowed three or fewer earned runs in 14 of the team's 16 games this season, and the rotation now owns a 3.22 ERA.

Problem is, as good as the pitching has been, the offense not only hasn't been on the same page, the hitters haven't even been in the same chapter. San Diego pitchers are receiving the worst run support in the National League at 3.38 runs per game, the fourth-lowest figure in the Majors.

"We're just not hitting at the rate we need to hit," manager Bud Black says. "Right now, it's just tough sledding offensively."

Worth noting
• The Giants' bullpen owns a 1.63 ERA. They have five relievers with at least seven appearances and an ERA of 2.00 or lower: Santiago Casilla, Juan Gutierrez, Javier Lopez, Jean Machi and closer Sergio Romo. San Francisco relievers combined to go 3-1 with a 0.54 ERA during the team's nine-game homestand.

• Opponents are hitting .326 (29-for-89) off Madison Bumgarner this season. Last year, his .203 opponents' average against ranked as the third lowest in the National League.

• Chase Headley has not been in the starting lineup for the past two games because of a mild strain of his right biceps. He pinch-hit in the seventh inning of Thursday's 3-1 loss to Colorado. Black said he was only able to hit right-handed because of the strain. The Padres are hoping to avoid a DL stint with him but it is unlikely that Headley will be in Friday's lineup.

• The Padres have a Major League-leading 24 doubles over their past nine games, dating back to April 8.

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