By NOEY KUPCHAN
(AP) -- Aside from a disappointing showing in the opener of this week's four-game set, the San Diego Padres are starting to show signs of improvement.
They'll try to keep playing well Wednesday afternoon against the major league-worst Houston Astros, losers of 14 of 16.
After going 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position during Monday's 2-0 loss, San Diego (37-55) bounced back with an 8-2 victory Tuesday. Ross Ohlendorf improved to 3-0 with six strong innings and Yonder Alonso went 2 for 3 with his first homer at Petco Park. Batting .407 with 16 RBIs in his last 15 games, Alexi Amarista matched a career high with three hits.
While San Diego ranks last in the majors with 328 runs, it's picked up the pace of late. The Padres, winners of nine of 14, have scored at least seven runs in three of their last four games.
"I think the past month has been a lot better," Alonso said. "The younger guys, especially myself, are more comfortable. You're seeing it from the younger guys, we're having better at-bats. If you have a group of guys having good at-bats against a pitcher, any time you do that, it just gets better and better."
The Astros (34-57) snapped a 13-game road losing streak with Monday's win, but failed to keep the momentum going. Houston has been outscored 78-37 and is batting .152 with runners in scoring position during its 2-14 overall skid.
The Astros could hard a time again Wednesday versus Padres starter Clayton Richard (6-10, 3.83 ERA). The left-hander is 4-3 with a 2.68 ERA over his last seven starts, allowing more than three earned runs just once in that stretch.
Richard, who threw seven innings of one-run ball during a 1-0 loss at Houston on June 27, suffered another hard-luck defeat Friday in a 2-1 road loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He gave up two runs and five hits in 7 1-3 innings.
"It's disappointing to throw well and just come up a little bit short," he said. "I just want to continue to progress and keep on getting better as a starting pitcher, get deep into games and give our team a chance to win."
Richard will be opposed by Wandy Rodriguez (7-7, 3.51), who wasn't very sharp Friday in his first outing following the All-Star break, allowing four runs and seven hits over six innings of a 5-1 loss at San Francisco.
The left-hander had gone 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA over his previous four starts versus San Diego before surrendering five runs in 6 2-3 innings of Houston's 8-7, 10-inning loss June 25.
Despite going 3-3 with a 5.23 ERA over his last nine outings, Rodriguez's name continues to come up in trade rumors. He appears likely to be moved prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
It's unknown if Rodriguez will have to face Carlos Quentin. The San Diego left fielder, who made his season debut May 28, has missed the last two games with soreness in his surgically repaired right knee. Quentin batted .322 with seven homers in his first 26 games, but is 5 for 37 (.135) with one home run in his last 10.
Updated July 18, 2012