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SF@SD: Ross fans nine over eight shutout frames

The Giants are getting closer to establishing a genuine everyday batting order, something that has been rare since Bruce Bochy began managing the club in 2007.

The Padres have crept closer to defining themselves, too. Their pitching has been exceptional. The offense has been mostly abysmal.

This pattern unfolded when the teams met April 18-20 at San Diego, and the potential exists for a repeat when the teams reconvene at AT&T Park for another three-game series beginning Monday.

The Giants hit poorly in the first series, collecting a descending number of hits in each game -- from five in the series opener, four the next night and three in the finale, which happened to be the only game San Francisco won. For the series, they hit .133, including .077 (1-for-13) with runners in scoring position.

The Giants will face the same trio of starting pitchers -- right-hander Tyson Ross and left-handers Eric Stults and Robbie Erlin -- who stymied them in San Diego. Bochy used different personnel and batting orders each game of that series, so it'll be intriguing to see whether he sticks with his "regular" lineup -- at least the one that's considered regular right now.

Michael Morse's regular presence as the No. 5 hitter has given the Giants' batting order its set look. Morse batted fifth in each game of the Giants' previous series against Cleveland and contributed to a pair of victories, homering Friday night and singling to open a critical four-run, fifth-inning rally Saturday. Before the Giants faced Cleveland, Morse divided his time almost equally among the fourth (six times), fifth (six games) and sixth (eight starts) positions in the order.

Morse appreciates batting behind cleanup hitter Buster Posey.

"I really like watching him hit, especially [from] on deck," Morse said. "His approach is kind of similar to mine -- trying to stay up the middle or [hit] the other way [to right field]. Sometimes pitchers tend to pitch him the way they pitch me. So I've been having fun hitting behind Buster."

Bochy undoubtedly will tweak the batting order and his starting personnel to capitalize on matchups. But against the Indians, the "same soup" Bochy served, as he called his lineup one day, featured Angel Pagan leading off, followed by Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt and Posey ahead of Morse. Then came Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Hicks.

Meanwhile, the Padres own a glittering 3.14 team ERA. But they have struggled to score, having amassed the fewest runs (69) in the Major Leagues. Sunday's 4-2 win over the Nationals seemed like a huge offensive outburst.

The Padres got outfielder Cameron Maybin back from the disabled list Sunday and hope that his bat can help awaken a dormant offense.

"We felt we wanted to get him out here and in a game," Padres manager Bud Black said. "You don't want to put it all on one guy, because they all have got to do it."

The Padres' top two projected hitters, outfielder Carlos Quentin and third baseman Chase Headley, are on the disabled list. Quentin is working his way back from a bone bruise in his left knee. Headley landed on the DL on Friday with a strained right calf.

Padres: Smith on the mend
The offense could get a boost when the team heads to San Francisco, as outfielder Seth Smith's strained right groin has responded to treatment and held up as he has hit in the cage and done light jogging on the field.

Smith suffered the strain Thursday chasing a Jose Lobaton double down the left-field line in the 10th inning. The Padres proceeded to win, 4-3, in 12 innings.

"When I was running toward the left-field line, I felt it tweak on me," Smith said. "I've had something similar before in Colorado, where I think I missed three games."

Black still needs to see some improvement before inserting Smith back in the lineup.

"It's running to first base, running to catch balls. ... That might be an issue," Black said.

Smith is hitting .277 with two home runs and seven RBIs.

Giants: Posey's activity monitored
Posey has played in 24 of San Francisco's 25 games, starting 21 -- all but one at catcher. Posey's pace of participation almost surely will slow down as the season progresses. Already, Bochy is closely monitoring not just the rate of Posey's activity, but also the level of physical punishment he endures.

Posey started each game of the Cleveland series following what Bochy considered two straight off-days for him -- a pinch-hitting appearance last Wednesday at Colorado followed by Thursday's scheduled day of rest for the entire team. So Bochy didn't debate using Posey to the fullest against the Indians. Posey also experienced a relatively easy night in the series opener, when Tim Hudson worked seven low-maintenance innings.

Though Posey has started only one game this year at first base, that remains an option if Bochy wants to keep his bat in the lineup while sparing him from the physical rigors of catching.

Worth noting
• Before Sunday, the Giants' previous three-game sweep against Cleveland, recorded June 24-26, 2011, also was their last in Interleague Play.

• Yan Gomes' eighth-inning homer for Cleveland off Santiago Casilla on Sunday was only the third earned run yielded by Giants relievers in 41 2/3 innings at home. That's an 0.65 ERA.

• Maybin had two hits Sunday -- his first since June 9 of last season. He landed on the DL shortly thereafter with wrist and knee injuries. Then, on March 2, Maybin suffered a ruptured left biceps tendon making a diving catch in Arizona.

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