In Rene Rivera, Padres pitchers trust. Of course, no more than any other catcher on staff, manager Bud Black insists time and time again – even if the numbers are penning a striking story early this season.

Noticeably wild to start the season, Ross fired his second straight dominant start – both to Rivera – in front of the 34,839 who filed into Petco Park on Friday night. He finished one shy of a career-high with nine strikeouts while sprinkling four hits over eight shutout innings to outduel the Giants’ Matt Cain in a 2-1 win in the opener of a three-game series against another NL West rival.

Yasmani Grandal came off the bench to add some breathing room with a pinch-hit homer in the eighth, which Huston Street needed a half-inning later while working around Brandon Belt’s one-out homer to save an outing that Rivera sensed could prove special before the 6-foot-6 Ross ever stepped on the mound.

“He was nasty,” Rivera said after the Padres (8-9) picked up their sixth win in their last nine games. “I noticed in the bullpen his sinker was heavy. He had a heavy sinker, a heavy change-up and the slider is always (scary). I could tell since we came out from the bullpen that it was going to be a good game. His pitch is the sinker and once he has that, he’s tough to hit.”

Not to be entirely outdone on the mound, Cain – he of the perfect game two seasons ago – matched an early season-high eight strikeouts while scattering four hits, two walks and a passed ball that allowed the Padres to score their only run off him in the first inning after Chris Denorfia’s one-out triple.

The Giants right-hander didn’t allow another runner past first base, retired 11 in a row at one point and gave way to a pinch-hitter in the eighth trailing anyway thanks to Ross’ best start to date.

Maybe ever. Maybe.

His and Andrew Cashner’s continued development a big reason for optimism around these parts this spring, the 26-year-old Ross sat down eight straight hitters after Angel Pagan’s leadoff double to start the game and retired nine more in a row at another point, a string snapped by Pablo Sandoval’s single to open the seventh with the Padres clinging to a 1-0 lead.