Giants, D'Backs to battle for first in NL West

Giants, D'Backs to battle for first in NL West
August 1, 2011, 5:06 pm
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August 1, 2011

ARIZONA (59-49) vs.
GIANTS (61-47)

Coverage begins at 6:30 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Seeing the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants atop the NL West shouldn't come as much of a shock.

After back-to-back last-place finishes, the Arizona Diamondbacks' opportunity to move into first place this late in the season is, in contrast, quite surprising.

With the top spot in the West ultimately up for grabs, the visiting Diamondbacks and Giants open a heavily-anticipated three-game set Monday night.

San Francisco (61-47) has led the division since overtaking Arizona on June 25, but now finds itself just two games ahead of the Diamondbacks following a three-game sweep at the hands of Cincinnati over the weekend. The Giants scored a combined five runs over the first two games before they were held to a season worst-tying three hits during Sunday's 9-0 defeat.

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"This club is resilient," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We've been through this before. It's not easy. There are always going to be bumps in the road, and this was a big one. It's up to us. We've got to go out there and play our best ball. We've got the talent. We've just got to do it."

San Francisco could have trouble snapping out of its funk with red-hot Arizona (59-49) coming to town. The Diamondbacks have outscored opponents 49-27 en route to taking six of eight - including Sunday's 6-3 road win over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

While Arizona has dropped seven of nine meetings with the Giants this season, manager Kirk Gibson's club will look for its recent momentum to carry over into this series.

"I think we're a different team now and we've developed a lot of character," Gibson said. "This is what it's all about, and guys love it. It'll probably be pretty exhaustive. But it's not do-or-die, and I don't want guys to put pressure on themselves - just continue to grit and grind.

"We just have to keep an even keel, and however we come out of that series, we'll move on to the next one."

Much of the team's recent success at the plate can be attributed to Justin Upton, who's 22 for 46 (.478) with six homers and 19 RBIs during a 12-game hitting streak. Upton's also hurt the Giants of late, going 22 for 55 (.400) with two homers over his last 13 games in the series.

Matt Cain (9-6, 2.91 ERA) is saddled with the tough task of slowing Upton down.

The right-hander has been very sharp of late, going 2-1 with a 1.44 ERA over his last four starts. He held Philadelphia to one unearned run and four hits over seven innings of Wednesday's 2-1 road win.

That same night, San Francisco acquired Carlos Beltran from the New York Mets in an attempt to boost its offense.

Beltran, however, is 2 for 17 (.118) in four games with his new club. He can't be happy about facing Ian Kennedy (12-3, 3.22), who's held him hitless in five career at-bats.

Kennedy is in the midst of a career-best four-start winning streak, during which he's compiled a 2.42 ERA. The right-hander gave up two runs, four hits, and fanned nine in six innings of Wednesday's 4-3 victory at San Diego.

"Fastball command wasn't as good as I wanted it to be but my changeup was probably the best it's been in a while," said Kennedy, 1-2 despite a 1.81 ERA lifetime against the Giants.

Cain, too, has experienced plenty of success in this series, especially at home, where he's 3-0 with a 1.57 ERA in his last six starts against Arizona - including a one-hitter on May 28, 2010.

Upton is 9 for 27 with seven strikeouts against Cain.