Despite struggling with the home run in his last two starts, James Shields is in position to become the first San Diego pitcher in eight seasons to win his first five decisions.
To get there for the third time in his career, however, he likely must contain a Seattle Mariners team that matched the franchise's single-game homer mark at Safeco Field to open this two-game series.
Looking to win a third straight start, Shields tries to help the Padres keep the Mariners from a fifth consecutive victory Wednesday night.
Shields (4-0, 4.25 ERA) went 2-0 with a 2.90 ERA in five April starts, but despite posting the same record has allowed nine of his 10 runs on seven homers over 11 1-3 innings in two May outings. The right-hander, however, still has a chance to become the first Padre since Justin Germano in 2007 to open 5-0.
After yielding at least 20 home runs in each of the last eight seasons, Shields has given up a major league-high 11 of the 50 that San Diego has allowed, also the most in baseball. However, the 7.87 average runs of support Shields has received also ranks among the most in the majors.
''We've given up quite a bit of homers. ... You don't expect that especially with (Andrew Cashner) and Tyson (Ross) and our pitching staff,'' San Diego starter Ian Kennedy said. ''The ship will right itself and even out, I guess. It's too early.''
All five runs Shields gave up came via four homers over six innings of Friday's 6-5 victory at Arizona.
''His style is to pitch aggressive and to go out and attack," said San Diego manager Bud Black, who doesn't seem too concerned about Shields' issues with keeping the ball in the park.
Prior to Friday and in his most recent outing at Safeco, Shields last allowed four homers during an 8-2 defeat with Tampa Bay on June 2, 2011.
Shields wasn't much better June 20 when he yielded five runs - three on homers by Logan Morrison and Mike Zunino - over seven innings while not factoring in the decision of a 7-5 loss to the Mariners with Kansas City.
Zunino homered twice, Morrison went deep and Nelson Cruz hit his major league-leading 15th as the Mariners (15-17) hit six home runs during Tuesday's 11-4 win over the Padres.
''We have talent on this club," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "We have guys with track records and I believe what the numbers say in the book are going to come to fruition and I think you're starting to see that.''
By recording his fourth two-hit game in five contests, Cruz raised his average to an AL-best .349. However, he's 4 for 21 with one home run and six strikeouts during the regular season against Shields.
Morrison is batting .356 in his last 12 games, and has hit all but one of his six home runs in the last 10. He is 4 for his last 10 with two doubles and a homer versus Shields.
Teammate Taijuan Walker (1-3, 8.13) has a modest 3.54 ERA in four career home starts but is 0-1 in those contests. The right-hander allowed three runs, including his first homer at Safeco, over five innings of a 4-3, 11-inning victory over Oakland on Friday.
Batting .303, Derek Norris had one of San Diego's six hits Tuesday and is the only Padre that Walker has faced by going hitless in one at-bat.