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SD@WSH: Cashner fans five over six innings

The D-backs and Padres get their first looks at each other in a three-game series at Petco Park, which begins Friday night.

These are two organizations that are plenty familiar with each other.

Not only do the teams play 19 times during the regular season and at least twice every spring, but Padres general manager Josh Byrnes held a similar post in Arizona before being dismissed during the 2010 season. He eventually was replaced by Kevin Towers, who previously had been the GM in San Diego.

It's Towers now that is facing mounting pressure in Arizona, where his D-backs have a franchise-record $110 million payroll and have gotten off to the worst start in club history.

"How would I characterize it?" D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said of his team. "Underachieving. We haven't played well. We talk about it every day. We're much better than this."

The Padres, meanwhile, have treaded water so far this year after being hit with some key injuries.

One constant throughout for San Diego has been the pitching of right-hander Andrew Cashner, who will start Friday.

Cashner (2-3) has lost his last two starts, but in fairness, the last time out against the Nationals he faced Tanner Roark, who tossed a three-hit shutout.

Cashner felt like his stuff in that game was as good as it had been in his previous five, but he left some pitches out over the middle of the plate and the Nats made him pay.

"I thought I threw some of the best pitches I've had," Cashner said after the game. "I just couldn't stop the bleeding."

That also has been a problem for D-backs right-hander Bronson Arroyo, who will oppose Cashner.

A bulging disk in his back during Spring Training had Arroyo behind, and though he did not miss a regular season start, he was not at full strength at the outset.

In his last start, Arroyo showed a bit of the pitcher the D-backs thought they were getting when they signed him to a two-year, $23.5 million free-agent deal in February. He allowed just two runs over 6 1/3 innings against the Phillies and was in line for the win before the bullpen gave up the lead in the eighth.

One of the biggest keys for the Padres has been the bullpen, which currently has the best ERA of any group in the big leagues. They've also drawn praise from members of the starting rotation, like southpaw Robbie Erlin, who started Wednesday night in San Francisco.

"They've done a phenomenal job," Erlin said. "Obviously, as a starting pitcher, you want to go as deep into the game as you can, also to help them out so they're always fresh. Being able to turn the ball over to all those guys is remarkable. They've done an outstanding job and contributed to every win. It's awesome."

D-backs: Gibson stays positive
The slow start to the season has led to speculation about Gibson's job status, but it is not something he is focused on.

"What I do is I come here every day, prepare and try to get these guys to play a good game, try to win a game," Gibson said. "I do that every day until I'm told something differently. I'm not worried about myself. I'm worried about the team, my obligation to the organization and the fans and Major League Baseball. That's the approach I will take every day that I'm ever involved in anything like this. And if I'm not involved in something like this, I will always stand up for baseball. It's treated me very well, I've had some great, historic moments, and that's ultimately what we're trying to do here, is be a part of baseball history in a positive way."

Padres: Denorfia is D-backs killer
It wouldn't be surprising to find out that the first thing outfielder Chris Denorfia does when the schedule is released is check to see when the Padres will be playing the D-backs.

To put it simply: Denorfia owns the D-backs.

In 56 career games against Arizona, Denorfia has hit .339 with nine home runs and 20 RBIs. His OPS mark is an outstanding .966.

Last season, Denorfia hit .303 with a pair of home runs and an OPS of .870 against Arizona.

Worth noting
• Cashner is making is sixth career start and 10th appearance against the D-backs. He is 3-0 with a 3.81 ERA against Arizona. In his starts, he is 2-0 with a 3.70 ERA.

• D-backs first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is 3-for-6 with a homer in his career against Cashner, while outfielder Gerardo Parra is 3-for-7. On the other hand, second baseman Aaron Hill is 0-for-3.

• In three home starts this year, Cashner is 2-0 with a 0.81 ERA, and dating back to the start of last season, he has a 1.70 ERA at Petco Park.

• In six career starts at Petco Park, Arroyo has a 2.13 ERA.

• Veteran Randy Wolf allowed three runs (two earned) over 5 1/3 innings for the D-backs' Triple-A affiliate Tuesday night.

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