When the Phillies and Padres open their three-game series on Monday at Petco Park, it will be a showdown between two left-handers who haven't done much losing lately.
Eric Stults enters Monday with a 2-1 record in his last five starts for the Padres, giving up two runs or fewer in each outing. He's pitched at least seven innings in four of those starts, including a complete game in which he surrendered one run on two hits and a walk against the D-backs on June 14.
All season long, Stults has been particularly effective at Petco Park, going 3-1 with a 2.90 ERA in six starts.
Although that's impressive, it doesn't quite match what Stults' counterpart on Monday has done for more than a month and a half. Phillies starter Cliff Lee has not lost since May 1, going 7-0 with a 1.97 ERA in nine starts.
Most recently, Lee limited the Nationals to two runs through eight innings on Tuesday. The root of his success, he said, typically lies in not falling behind hitters.
"I definitely want to throw strikes and work ahead in the count," Lee said. "[Tuesday], I was able to do that. Locating fastballs, mixing in changeups, there were a few curveballs in there. But for the most part, it was locating fastballs and staying out of hitter-friendly counts."
Coincidentally, Stults shared a similar sentiment about what he's doing when he's pitching well after allowing two runs on seven hits on Wednesday against the Giants.
"I felt good, I felt like I was commanding the strike zone pretty well," Stults said.
Phillies: Ramirez makes debut
Right-handed reliever J.C. Ramirez's first Major League appearance on Sunday couldn't have gone much better, as he came on in the eighth inning against the Mets and struck out all three batters he faced.
Called up on Saturday to replace the injured Mike Adams, Ramirez struggled some at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he built a 6.53 ERA in 27 appearances. However, he said Lehigh Valley pitching coach Ray Burris worked with him on keeping his sinker down and maintaining his tempo with runners on base. The extra work, which led to an improved Ramirez in his last eight games at Triple-A, appeared to have paid off on Sunday.
"I was working every day on my mechanics with Ray," Ramirez said. "I felt like I saw the results -- there weren't as many stolen bases and I kept the game closer every time I went to the mound."
Padres: Club looks to continue home success
As the Padres try to keep pace in the National League West, they've done a good job of utilizing their home-field advantage at Petco Park.
On Saturday, San Diego had an eight-game home winning streak snapped by the Dodgers. It was the longest such streak by the Padres since April 2010. Since April 24 of this season, the Padres are 23-9 at Petco Park, despite back-to-back losses to the Dodgers. San Diego also hasn't lost a home series since the Cardinals took two of three from May 20-22.
• Looking to help out a bullpen that pitched nine innings Friday after Clayton Kershaw threw only two pitches because of an injury, the Padres added relievers Miles Mikolas and Brad Brach from Triple-A Tucson on Sunday. Right-handers Brad Boxberger and Anthony Bass were optioned to make room.
• The Padres enter Monday 9-4 against the NL East this season, most recently sweeping Atlanta at home from June 10-12.
• The Phillies have been the best team in the NL East since April 19, going 31-29.
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.