Battle of bottom feeders

For the most part, the San Diego Padres (37-55) have come out of the All-Star break swinging hot bats.

The Padres look to take three of four from the NL-worst Houston Astros (34-57) when the teams conclude their series Thursday night (10:05 p.m. EDT). The Padres opened as -150 home favorites and the total checked in at 6 1/2 (Source: SportsOptions).

San Diego ranks last in the majors with 3.6 runs per game, but has scored seven or more in four of its last six contests, including eight runs to win each of the last two games against Houston. The Padres (38-55) were shut out in the series opener.

Yonder Alonso hit a pair of doubles and drove in three runs in an 8-4 victory Wednesday.

“It was a good performance today with contributions all around the lineup,” manager Bud Black said. “It’s like we’ve talked about that it’s going to take all of our guys to get it done, and today was a good example of a lineup contributing top to bottom.”

Alonso continues to provide a spark in the lineup with 23 doubles this year. The rookie first baseman has hit two or more doubles in a game seven times this season – a franchise record.

With Wednesday’s win, the Padres improved to 4-3 against the Astros (34-58). They are averaging 4.9 runs in the season series, with Alonso going 8 for 15 (.533) with three doubles and a home run. He has six RBIs in the last two games.

Despite winning Monday, Houston has lost 15 of 17, averaging 2.4 runs and hitting .203 over that stretch.

The Astros’ tough season has only grown more frustrating this week with the news that Jed Lowrie will miss four to six weeks with a sprained ankle and a nerve injury to his right leg. The shortstop leads Houston with 14 homers and his 36 RBIs rank second on the club.

Lowrie was injured Saturday. The following day, the Astros placed catcher Jason Castro on the disabled list with pain in his knee.

The one bright spot for Houston on Wednesday was Matt Downs, who hit a pair of home runs and drove in all four runs.

“It’s a great accomplishment I guess for me, but still, we lost, 8-4,” Downs, who is hitting .191 in 115 at-bats this season, told the Astros’ official website.

Houston will try to earn a split of the series against Edinson Volquez (5-7, 3.69 ERA), but that may be a tall order. The right-hander is 5-0 with a 2.53 ERA in seven career starts against the Astros – all with Cincinnati.

The Padres have won Volquez’s last four starts, but he hasn’t earned a decision in the last two. He gave up four runs, eight hits and four walks in five innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday.

The Astros will end the series by giving the ball to Lucas Harrell (7-6, 4.43).

The right-hander was dominant against the Padres on June 27, pitching a six-hitter – his only career complete game – striking out seven and walking four in the Astros’ 1-0 victory.

That shutout came at home, where Harrell’s ERA is 1.99. He’s 2-5 with a 6.21 ERA on the road. He did pitch effectively at San Francisco on Saturday, though, giving up one run in five innings of a game Houston lost 3-2 in 12.

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