Since returning to the Phillies' rotation Aug. 25, Roy Halladay has shown flashes of his former self.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner and eight-time All-Star, a free agent after this season, will get another chance Thursday to show the Phillies -- or another club -- that they shouldn't give up on him just yet, in the series finale with the Padres.
Halladay, a shadow of his former self over seven starts in April and May, showed some progress Sept. 4 against the Nationals, after sitting out close to four months with a partially torn rotator cuff. He allowed three hits and a run in six innings, lowering his ERA to a still-unruly 7.19 as his record fell to 3-4.
It was far from flawless, as he walked three in the first and hit two other batters before finding a groove in the middle innings.
"The only thing that's tough, really, is coming off surgery and everything else, you're just so used to being able to repeat mechanically without thinking about it," Halladay said following that start. "Now your arm is in a different spot. It's more of a challenge than it was early on. It's just a matter of getting used to that."
The veteran right-hander will try to slow a Padres lineup that's won six of eight heading into Thursday's rubber match, which will complete the first leg of a 10-game trip.
Halladay may claim the bigger name, but San Diego's Tyson Ross has quietly emerged as a bonafide big league starter. Since rejoining the rotation July 23, Ross has a 2.16 ERA with opponents hitting just .189, ranking 10th and fourth-best in the Majors, respectively, over that stretch.
Ross turned in one of his finest starts of the year against the Rockies on Saturday, tossing seven shutout innings and allowing just three hits.
"I really like the consistency of his delivery," manager Bud Black said after San Diego's 2-1 victory. "He repeated it all night long, and I didn't see him coming out of his mechanics. You're seeing more consistency with his ball-strike ratio. It was another great step."
Despite posting the third-worst record in the Majors since the All-Star break, the Phillies have won four of five and 11 of their past 16 at Citizens Bank Park. A win Thursday would mark just their fifth series victory of the second half.
Asche boosting Philadelphia offense
It hasn't taken rookie Cody Asche long to make a splash in the big leagues.
Asche, 23, was hitless in Wednesday night's 4-2 win but has been a sparkplug in the Phillies' offense since making his Major League debut July 30. In his past 28 games, he's batting .305 with five homers, six doubles and 19 RBIs.
A fourth-round pick out of Nebraska in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, Asche spent the better part of the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, hitting .295 with 15 homers and 68 RBIs in 104 games.
Denorfia lends a helping hand
Chris Denorfia has more than made up for any offensive deficiencies with his right arm.
Denorfia's nine outfield assists are tied for fourth in the NL, but more impressive is that he has at least two from each spot in the outfield. Five have come as a right fielder, two in center and two more in left.
He joins Jerry Morales in 1972 and Dave Winfield in 1974 as the only Padres players with at least two assists at all three positions.
• In 12 starts, Ross has a 2.49 ERA and 75 strikeouts to 27 walks. The Padres are 5-7 when he toes the rubber.
• Philadelphia has not dropped a series to San Diego since Aug. 26, 2007, and is 13-3-3 in 19 series since 2004.
Ian McCue is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.