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SD@STL: Stults holds Cardinals to three runs over six

Things were a lot different the last time the Padres and D-backs played each other.

The Padres were surging after sweeping the D-backs in a three-game series at Petco Park on June 14-16. San Diego was riding a six-game winning streak and seemed as though they could compete for a National League West title, while Arizona was left clinging to a slim division lead.

When the two teams begin a three-game series on Friday in Phoenix, the D-backs will find themselves looking up at the red-hot division-leading Dodgers.

Meanwhile, the Padres have faded into last place and are 7 1/2 games behind Los Angeles.

San Diego is playing better lately, having just taken three out of four from the Brewers for the club's first road-series victory since May 14-15 in Baltimore.

Eric Stults, the Padres' starter on Friday, threw one of his two complete games this season against the D-backs on June 14, allowing one run on two hits.

"He uses the hitters' energy against them," D-backs bench coach Alan Trammell said after that game. "He's not a hard thrower. That's what they do. They get guys to get off-balance, thinking that they're going to sneak a fastball."

During his last 15 starts, Stults has compiled a 2.90 ERA, but his record stands at 6-6. The Padres haven't had much success in his starts on the road, where they have a record of 4-8.

The D-backs will send Randall Delgado to the mound. Delgado is 2-3 with a 3.43 ERA and is coming off a win in his last start, throwing 5 2/3 scoreless innings against the Giants.

Stringing together seven starts without allowing more than three earned run, every game Delgado has pitched in has been quite close. Out of any pitcher who has thrown at least 40 innings this season, he has the third lowest run support in the Majors with a total of 2.71 runs per nine innings.

With Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy set to be activated from the disabled list in the next week, Delgado will use Friday's start as an audition to stay in the rotation.

"Nothing is set in stone," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "There are a lot of things that aren't settled yet."

Padres: Offense rebounding
San Diego's offense hit a proverbial rock bottom when they were no-hit by Giants starter Tim Lincecum on July 13.

However, the bats have rebounded nicely since then, hitting a combined .305 (86-for-282).

The Padres scored 10 runs against the Brewers on Thursday, and the team has won five of its last eight.

D-backs: Montero listed as day to day
Arizona catcher Miguel Montero was out of the lineup for the third consecutive game on Thursday after an MRI revealed inflammation in his back. The injury isn't considered serious and the club is listing him as day to day.

"They just want to take it a little bit slow," Montero said. "I'm not concerned because I feel good, I've played with a lot more pain than what this is."

Montero hurt his back during Tuesday's game while taking swings in the cages in preparation for a potential pinch-hitting scenario. While he didn't take batting practice on Thursday, Montero expects to return to baseball activities on Friday.

"It's nothing serious, I feel good. I want to go out and hit," he said before Thursday's game. "Yesterday, I came in and said I felt good to play and today is even better than yesterday. They just want to take it slow, but I'm good to go."

Worth noting
• Martin Prado is 10-for-27 (.370) in his first seven games out of the All-Star break. From June 25 through Thursday, he's hit .330 (32-for-97) with four doubles, a triple, four homers and 16 RBIs.

• The Padres are entering the final series of a 10-game road trip in which they are 4-3.

• Everth Cabrera has tied a career high with 98 hits this season (2012).

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