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ATL@SD: Ross fans seven over six innings

On Saturday, the Padres got some good news about one of their two aces, pitcher Andrew Cashner. On Sunday, they send their current staff ace, Tyson Ross, to the mound in the series finale against the Pirates at PNC Park.

Cashner's first Minor League rehab start Friday went well, and he could return to the team's rotation as soon as Aug. 23.

As for Ross, a first-time All-Star last month, he continues to roll right along in what is shaping up to be a memorable season.

Ross is in the top 10 in the National League in innings and takes a 2.62 ERA in 24 starts into this start against the Pirates.

Ross has logged nine consecutive games of six or more innings and two or fewer earned runs allowed since June 21, the second-longest active streak in the Major Leagues, trailing only Felix Hernandez of the Mariners (15). That streak is the third-longest streak in franchise history.

Ross has thrown 154 2/3 innings, which is by far a career high for the Padres right-hander. He threw 125 last season, which was his previous career-high.

"I am aware I'm higher than I've been in the past, but I feel good, I feel strong and I actually feel like I'm getting better," Ross said. "I'm taking the season as an opportunity to learn and continue to grow. Every outing is a learning experience.

"As long as my body is feeling good … I'm looking forward to continuing to go and continuing to learn."

Ross will be opposed by Pirates righty Charlie Morton, who had a victory taken away by his bullpen in his last outing. Morton scattered six hits and four walks over seven innings, surrendering just one run to the Marlins on Tuesday. But he didn't get a win, as Pittsburgh relievers gave up a five-run eighth inning to blow a 2-1 lead.

"Tonight, for the most part, I was lucky and had some great plays made behind me," Morton said after the start. "And I made some pitches in key situations to get some double plays."

Pirates: Starting pitching stepping up during injury-riddled stretch
The banged-up Bucs have been able to keep a winning record even with Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker on the bench with injuries.

Various members in the lineup have risen to the challenge to help fill their void, but something out of Walker and McCutchen's control even when healthy has been ratcheted up for the Pirates -- their starting pitching. With Francisco Liriano's two-run, seven-inning showing from Saturday included, Pirates' starters have combined for a 1.80 ERA in their last five games.

"You keep fighting," said Edinson Volquez, who tossed seven scoreless innings against Miami on Thursday. "We know we can score a lot of runs. We got two guys down, they're big guys on the team. But we put our heads down and keep moving forward.

In the last time through the rotation, each arm has lasted seven innings, and no pitcher has allowed more than three earned runs. The streak started when Sunday's starter, Morton, quieted the Marlins for one run in seven frames on Tuesday.

Padres: Alonso heating up
Since returning from the 15-day disabled list on July 26, Yonder Alonso has put up a .406/.441/.688 (13-for-32) line with four doubles, a triple, a home run and two RBIs in 12 games.

Among National League hitters with as many or more at-bats in that time, Yonder's .406 batting average is sixth-best in the league, while his on-base percentage ranks seventh and slugging percentage ranks third.

Alonso missed 30 games with tendinitis in his right wrist.

Worth noting
• Josh Harrison's current 13-game hitting streak is the longest by a Pirate this season. The All-Star is hitting .464 (26-for-56) during it with 13 extra-base hits.

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