NEW YORK -- All the New York Mets have to do in order to produce their first winning streak in more than a month is get the best of a pitcher whose most extensive "start" came against high schoolers.
The Mets will look for that elusive second straight win Sunday, when they host the San Diego Padres in the finale of a three-game series at Citi Field. New York snapped a four-game losing streak Saturday night with a 3-2, 11-inning win.
Mets left-hander Steven Matz is scheduled to oppose Padres left-hander Clayton Richard, who took a decidedly unique path to his first major league start of the season, Richard made 25 relief appearances with the Chicago Cubs before being designated for assignment on July 26.
In hopes of keeping sharp for his next club, Richard took the mound the very next day, when he threw 65 pitches against an All-Star team of 15- and 16-year-olds in his hometown of Lafayette, Ind. The Padres signed Richard, who pitched for the club from 2009 through 2013, on Aug. 5.
"He didn't tell me if he dominated them or not, so I didn't get the full game report," Padres manager Andy Green said with a grin. "He didn't show me the video or the boxscore, so I just kind of assume he did well. If (Sunday) doesn't go well, we'll have to ask him for the box score."
Richard allowed one run in 1 1/3 innings over two relief appearances before moving into the rotation for the Padres (50-66), who are trying to limit the innings of their starters during a stretch of 16 games in as many days. Only two current San Diego starters, Christian Friedrich and Luis Perdomo, have made 10 starts for the club this season and only one, right-hander Jarred Cosart, started a game in the majors last season.
"Where we are right now, it's about their health moving forward," Green said. "This 16-day stretch, late in the season where guys like Christian Friedrich (are) way past their innings limits from the previous year, it just makes sense."
Richard will be limited to about 75 pitches in his first major league start since Aug. 2, 2015.
The Mets are hoping to build on the momentum they've generated over the last two days. New York nearly came back from a six-run deficit in an 8-6 loss on Friday night, when a trio of relievers combined to retire the Padres' final 19 batters.
On Saturday, right-hander Jacob deGrom carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning -- extending the Padres' hitless streak to 10 2/3 innings -- and allowed just one run on three hits over seven innings on a hope Matz can follow in the footsteps of right-hander Jacob deGrom, who allowed one run on three hits over seven innings on a night when the first pitch temperature was 91 degrees.
"Hopefully this is the start of something and we just kind of relax and continue to get big hits and continue to pitch," Mets manager Terry Collins said, "Jake was good and (Sunday) we need 'Matzie' to step up."
The defending National League champion Mets (58-58) have not won consecutive games since July 6-7. They are 11-20 since that "winning streak" but are still only 2 1/2 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the race for the NL's second wild card.
"Every win is big, especially now," deGrom said. "We're trying to make it to the playoffs. We need to win as many as we can."