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COL@SD: Despaigne fans eight over seven scoreless

Odrisamer Despaigne has had a roller coaster of a first season in the Majors. The Cuban defector has gone from nearly throwing a no-hitter in his fifth big league start to largely scuffling in his six outings since then.

Despaigne and the Padres are hoping that a return to Petco Park, where that near no-hitter occurred, will do the right-hander some good. His ERA is a full two runs better when pitching in San Diego.

At Petco Park, he's compiled a 2.45 ERA and a .205 batting average against in five home starts compared with a 4.45 ERA and a .277 batting average against on the road, where he's had to pitch his last two outings.

Despaigne has lasted just a combined nine innings in those starts against St. Louis and Arizona, giving up eight earned runs and 11 hits with just five strikeouts.

The Brewers are hoping they can extend Despaigne's struggles a little longer and notch a series win to stave off their competitors in the tight National League Central race.

They'll send Yovani Gallardo to the hill, an eight-year veteran who has quietly put together the best season of his career in 2014.

Though his strikeout rate is down from his career numbers, Gallardo has a career-best 3.38 ERA and is nearly on pace to top 200 innings for the third time in the last four seasons.

Gallardo has been even better on the road, posting a 6-2 record with a 2.57 ERA in 12 outings away from hitter-friendly Miller Park.

He did struggle his last time out, though, taking the loss against division rival Pittsburgh after giving up six runs on eight hits and three walks in five innings.

If the Brewers are to keep a multi-game lead on St. Louis in the NL Central, their longest-tenured starter will have to get back to his winning ways.

Padres: Rivera's defense paying dividends
Despite appearing in just 75 games this season, Rene Rivera leads the National League with 23 baserunners thrown out. That defensive prowess, coupled with his excellent pitch-framing skills, is exactly what the Padres were hoping for when they brought in the 31-year-old journeyman over the offseason.

"Rene I think is one of the best in baseball as far as pure footwork and arm strength on stolen base attempts," said Padres manager Bud Black. "I think he's always had the ability to catch and throw, receive and control the running game from his end."

As a result, Rivera has received much more playing time this season than a usual backup catcher, occasionally even pushing regular starter Yasmani Grandal -- no defensive slouch himself -- to first base.

"Anytime you have a catcher like Rene, who's not only a good receiver but is also good at throwing out runners, it kind of takes the pressure off me a little bit," said Tyson Ross, who benefitted from two runners being thrown out by Rivera on the basepaths Tuesday.

Brewers: Garza ready to face hitters
Rehabbing starter Matt Garza threw what pitching coach Rick Kranitz described as a "superb" bullpen session on Tuesday, and Kranitz says Garza will soon take the next step in his rehabilitation -- facing live hitters.

Whether those hitters are stepping to the plate in a simulated game, a Minor League game or a Major League game remained to be revealed, but the bottom line for Garza was another big step toward the end of his stint on the disabled list for a rib-cage strain.

Garza has been sidelined since feeling a muscle grab along his left side during an Aug. 3 start in St. Louis. He took two weeks off from throwing before beginning an accelerated program that brought him to Tuesday's 35-40 pitch mound session.

"I've done it before so I know when not to push and when you can push it," said Garza, who was on the DL at the start of last season with a similar injury. "Right now, we're not at a time where we have to push it, so that's a positive thing. The guys [athletic trainers] are doing a great job, and it's just, come back healthy and strong and ready to go."

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