( - John Lackey tries to shake off one of the worst outings of his career on Thursday when the St. Louis Cardinals open a four-game series with the San Diego Padres at Busch Stadium.

In his second start since being acquired by Boston at the non-waiver trade deadline, Lackey was rocked by the Baltimore Orioles to the tune of nine runs and 13 hits in five innings, skyrocketing his ERA in a Cardinals uniform to 8.25.

"You got to give them a lot of credit," Lackey said. "They're swinging the bats well. Hits were falling in. A couple of them were hit real hard and they went out of the yard."

Lackey has split two starts versus the Padres, going 1-1 with a 4.76 ERA.

St. Louis returns home after a 2-4 road trip. The Cards, though, closed the trek in style on Wednesday in Miami, as Matt Carpenter had three hits and scored twice and Justin Masterson pitched a gem in a 5-2 win over the Marlins.

Masterson (2-1) was dominant in his third start for the Cards since coming over in a trade from the Indians. The veteran righty allowed just three hits over seven efficient innings.

"The best thing about it was guys played extreme defense out there," said Masterson. "When we're going good we get some ground balls, and all the guys out there were doing great.

San Diego, meanwhile, comes in red-hot, having matched its season-best five- game winning streak following a sweep over the Colorado Rockies. On Wednesday, Rymer Liriano's first career home run, a two-run blast, helped the Padres to a 5-3 victory.

Jedd Gyorko finished 4-for-4 with two doubles and a run scored and Abraham Almonte also homered for the Padres, who have won 11 of their last 14.

Ian Kennedy (9-10) earned the win after giving up three runs on six hits with eight strikeouts in six innings of work.

"We are playing better all around," said Padres manager Bud Black. "We are probably pitching better the past few weeks and our at-bats are better for sure."

Now it'll be Eric Stults' turn, as he tries to win his third straight start. Stults still leads the National League with 13 losses, but has been brilliant his last two times out, surrendering one run over 12 2/3 innings.

"It's nice to just have a win," Stults said after holding Pittsburgh to one run in six innings on Saturday. "This year has been a little frustrating."

Stults had been 0-9 with a 5.37 ERA over his previous 12 road starts before beating the Pirates.

San Diego took two of three from the Cards in late July.

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