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08/18/10 12:21 AM ET

Richard meets Cubs' rook as Padres try to pile on

The Padres are surging, using a consistent starting rotation to vault to the biggest lead of any National League contender. San Diego, which leaped to five games ahead of San Francisco by virtue of a victory over Chicago on Tuesday night, will look to continue an impressive streak of pitching Wednesday against the Cubs.

The Padres, in fact, have won eight of their last nine games, outscoring their opponents, 48-19, over that span. San Diego's starting pitchers have won eight straight games, and the Padres are a season-best 24 games over the break-even mark. San Diego boasts the league's best overall (71-47) and road record (35-25).

San Diego will hand the ball to Clayton Richard, one of the team's most fortunate starters, for Wednesday, in the third act of a four-game series. Richard has gone 6-1 in his last 10 starts despite posting a 5.12 ERA and allowing opposing hitters to hit .296 against him. Richard, by contrast, went 4-4 with a 2.93 ERA in his first 14 starts.

Richard, in the big picture, has helped the Padres earn a few distinctions that were well out of reach in recent years. He is one of four San Diego starters with at least 10 wins, marking the first time the Padres have done that since 2006. The Friars, in fact, hadn't even had multiple 10-game winners since the 2007 season.

The Cubs, meanwhile, have gone just 5-16 in their last 21 games, an extended skid that comes directly on the heels of a 10-6 record in the month of July. Chicago, which has had just seven pitchers start a game this season, will hand the ball to rookie right-hander Casey Coleman for his first career start Wednesday.

The 22-year-old, a third-generation big leaguer, will be following in the steps of his grandfather and father, both of whom carried the name Joe Coleman. The elder Coleman was an All-Star in 1948 and posted a 52-76 career record with a 4.38 ERA, while his son and namesake was an All-Star in 1972 and finished with 142 victories.

"It's good to live up to the family name. I'm helping out my dad and grandpa's name," said Coleman. "There's been a lot of pressure, but it's good pressure and it's fueled me. I've really wanted to do this for a long time."

San Diego, incidentally, is the only other team in the Majors that has used just seven starting pitchers. The Cubs, who are playing through a seven-game homestand, will welcome the Braves, the leaders of the NL East, once the Padres leave town. Chicago has dropped five straight home games for the first time since the 2008 season.

Chicago, which has played a league-high 44 one-run games this season, is 1-8 in its last nine games at Wrigley Field. Over half of the Cubs' games -- 63 of 120 -- have been decided by two runs or fewer. Chicago has 30 losses in one-run games, the most in the Majors, and is just 23-39 in games decided by two runs or fewer.

Padres: Tejada rejuvenated with Friars
It may not be the Fountain of Youth, but veteran infielder Miguel Tejada has found something that agrees with him in San Diego. Tejada has batted .314 (22-for-70) since arriving to the Padres by virtue of a trade with the Orioles, hitting safely in 11 of his 17 games with San Diego and reaching base safely in 13 of 17.

Perhaps the resurgence, in fact, can be tied to his position. Tejada, a shortstop for the vast majority of his career, spent most of the season at third base for Baltimore, where he played all 93 of his games as an Oriole. Tejada has played at shortstop 16 times for the Padres, further diversifying the pennant contender's batting order.

Cubs: Byrd, Ramirez still flying high
The Cubs were held to just six hits in Tuesday night's shutout loss, and All-Star Marlon Byrd was held hitless in the defeat. Despite that result, Byrd has hit safely in 17 of his last 21 games, notching a .289 average (24-for-83) in that span. Byrd, who walked on Tuesday night, has reached base safely in 22 of his last 24 games.

Aramis Ramirez, who had a disastrous first half, has begun to bounce back. Chicago's third baseman has hit safely in 31 of his last 42 games, good for a .304 (48-for-158) average with 12 home runs. Ramirez needed that kind of rebound after a start that saw him hitting .162 with a .227 on-base percentage at the end of May.

Worth noting
The Padres have 103 stolen bases this season, the second-highest total in the National League and more than San Diego has managed in any of the last three years. ... Padres closer Heath Bell has a Major League-high 36 saves in 39 attempts this season. ... Chicago veteran Derek Lee missed his second straight game due to a bulging disc in his back. Lee is listed as day-to-day. ... David Eckstein, sidelined by a right calf strain since July 21, is expected to begin a rehabilitation stint for Class A Fort Wayne on Wednesday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.