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The San Diego Padres are back atop the NL West for the first time in more than a month. They hope the return of All-Star pitcher Chris Young will help them stay there.

The Padres go for their first four-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks in nine years when they meet in Thursday's finale at Petco Park.

San Diego (73-59) has won seven of eight to move a percentage point ahead of Arizona (74-60) in the division. The Padres, trying to win their third consecutive NL West title, are back in first for the first time since leading Los Angeles by one percentage point on July 20.

"There's a lot of season left," manager Bud Black told the Padres' official Web site. "We're swinging the bats, we're pitching well. There's a lot of teams in contention (for the playoffs)."

Brian Giles went 3-for-4 with a homer and scored the go-ahead run on Mike Cameron's double in the eighth as San Diego won 3-1 on Wednesday. Greg Maddux pitched seven strong innings and didn't walk a batter for the sixth straight start to help the Padres win their fourth game in a row versus Arizona.

San Diego now tries to sweep the Diamondbacks in a four-game series for the first time since April 10-13, 1998.

Oddsmakers from Bodog.com have made San Diego -165 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 7 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 53% of bets for this game have been placed on San Diego -165 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Young (9-4, 2.12 ERA) will be back on the mound for the Padres after being sidelined with lower back pain. The right-hander left his last start on Aug. 21 after five innings due to the injury and did not get a decision, allowing four runs and five hits in a 7-6 loss to the New York Mets.

He returned to San Diego to have his back checked and missed his scheduled start Sunday at Philadelphia. The 6-foot-10 Young threw a bullpen session Monday and was pleased by the results.

"It feels pretty good right now," Young said before the opener of this series.

He would lead the majors in ERA and opponent batting average (.184), but is one-third of an inning shy of qualifying at this point in the season.

Young has been especially dominant at home, going 4-1 with a 0.66 ERA in 10 starts. He hasn't allowed a run in his last four starts at Petco while pitching 27 innings, going 2-0 with a .121 opponent batting average.

Young is 1-1 with a 3.26 ERA in four career starts versus the Diamondbacks. He did not receive a decision in his most recent outing against them on July 14, when he allowed one run and two hits through six innings while striking out eight in a 5-4 loss.

Arizona has lost seven of 10, averaging just 2.5 runs, and is 2-for-20 with runners in scoring position during this series.

"We didn't want to lose the first three here," said Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin, whose team meets the Padres for the final time Sept. 3-5 in Phoenix. "We'll keep our heads up and keep battling, like we have all year."

The Diamondbacks will be looking to win for the ninth time in Doug Davis' 10 starts since the All-Star break. The left-hander is 6-1 with a 3.76 ERA in his last nine outings.

Davis (11-11, 4.09) tied a season high with eight strikeouts while beating the Chicago Cubs on Saturday, holding them to one run and six hits in seven innings of a 3-1 win.

He lasted a season-low two innings in his previous start, allowing six runs in a 9-0 defeat to Milwaukee.

"My control was a lot better and I wasn't falling behind," said Davis, who is trying to match his career high of 12 wins, set in 2004. "I was able to get ahead and stay ahead."

Davis' impressive run since the All-Star break began with an 8-3 win over San Diego on July 13. He allowed two runs through six innings to improve to 4-2 with a 3.54 ERA in nine career games versus the Padres.

by: Michael Cash - thespread.com – Email Us

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