James Shields hoped to be pitching for a contender when he joined the San Diego Padres, but now he's resigned to achieving what he believes is an important milestone.
As he moves closer to the 200-inning mark, the right-hander will try to win his sixth consecutive decision against the NL West-worst Colorado Rockies on Sunday at Coors Field.
Shields (12-6, 3.80 ERA) was one of several players - along with Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Justin Upton, Derek Norris and Will Middlebrooks - San Diego added during a quick offseason rebuild.
The Padres (69-80) then opted to keep things together at the trade deadline despite being eight games behind the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers. Now they're simply playing out the string since being officially eliminated from postseason contention.
That hasn't stopped Shields from pitching well down the stretch. He's reached 200 strikeouts for the third time in his career and is 10 2-3 innings from hitting 200 for a ninth straight season.
"The strikeouts mean something to me, but not really; I'm more of an innings guy," he told MLB's official website. "I like the 200 innings every year. I feel like if you go deep into games and throw a lot of innings, your strikeouts are going to be there."
Shields has gone 3-0 with a 3.24 ERA over his last four starts after allowing one run over seven innings in Monday's 10-3 win at Arizona. The veteran insists he's ready to go after getting hit on the right forearm by a grounder just before the end of the seventh.
Shields is 5-0 with a 4.08 ERA in six meetings with the Rockies over the past two seasons.
He'll have to be careful with Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez, who have the second- and third-most home runs in the NL, respectively. Arenado is 10 for 17 with three homers when facing Shields, while Gonzalez has gone 8 for 19 with two longballs.
Arenado and Gonzalez each knocked in two runs and Charlie Blackmon had three hits in Saturday's 10-2 win. Rookie catcher Tom Murphy went 3 for 5 with his first big-league home run after going 0 for 8 over his previous three games.
''Each game you're here, you get a little more comfortable," Murphy said.
The Rockies (63-85) have hit .344 and averaged 6.6 runs while winning five of seven at home. They'll likely need to continue that production with Kyle Kendrick on the mound as they go after their first sweep since taking four in a row from visiting Atlanta from July 9-12.
The right-hander's 6.91 ERA at home is MLB's second highest among those with at least 10 starts there. He's also 1-1 with a 6.88 ERA while allowing five homers in three starts against the Padres.
Kendrick (6-12, 6.15), though, has pitched better since missing a month due to shoulder inflammation. He's gone 2-0 with a 3.86 ERA in his last three starts with both victories coming on the road.
Upton is batting .367 with three homers in 30 lifetime at-bats versus Kendrick.
Myers went 2 for 3 with a double Saturday and Jedd Gyorko had his 15th homer and a double. Myers has gone 8 for 16 in his last four games versus Colorado.