Giants poised to prey upon fading Pirates

Giants poised to prey upon fading Pirates
August 8, 2011, 2:01 pm
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August 8, 2011

PITTSBURGH (54-59) vs.
GIANTS (63-52)

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

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Two weeks ago, the San Francisco Giants and the Pittsburgh Pirates were division leaders. Both teams have been playing poorly, but the Giants have managed to remain in first place and the Pirates are nowhere near it.

The Giants try to boost their record on a sagging homestand as they look to hand the Pirates an 11th consecutive loss Monday night.

While San Francisco (63-52) has a half-game lead over Arizona atop the NL West despite losing eight of 10, Pittsburgh - the Central leader as recently as July 26 - has dropped 10 straight to fall 10 games behind division-leading Milwaukee.

"It's obviously not easy right now," second baseman Neil Walker said. "... Nobody likes the feeling that we have right now."

The Pirates (54-59) may have a tough time halting their skid Monday, considering they have lost seven of eight in San Francisco and will be facing Ryan Vogelsong - second in the NL in ERA.

The Giants have gone 2-5 on their 10-game homestand but avoided a four-game sweep to Philadelphia with Sunday's 3-1 win over the NL East leaders.

REWIND: Lincecum, Giants avoid sweep; hold off Phils

"With the funk we've been in, you hope this is something to build on," winning pitcher Tim Lincecum said. "We don't want to be content just winning one here and there."

San Francisco expects Carlos Beltran to be in the lineup even though he left in the seventh inning Sunday with pain in the top of his right hand on a swinging strikeout. Beltran, batting .268 with two RBIs in 10 games since being acquired from the New York Mets, has hit .395 with 11 RBIs in his last 10 versus Pittsburgh.

Fellow midseason acquisition Jeff Keppinger is 6 for 8 in his last two games and will look to stay hot to back Vogelsong (9-1, 2.19 ERA), who will try to beat his former team for the second time in as many tries.

Pitching at Pittsburgh on April 28 in his first start since 2004, Vogelsong gave up two runs in 5 2-3 innings and matched a career high with eight strikeouts in a 5-2 win for his first victory in the majors since Sept. 14, 2005.

Vogelsong was 10-19 with a 6.00 ERA from 2001-06 with Pittsburgh before playing in the minors and in Japan.

The right-hander won for the third time in four games after holding Arizona to a run and five hits in six innings of an 8-1 win Wednesday.

Walker was 3 for 3 against Vogelsong in April and enters this contest with nine multihit efforts in his last 13 games.

His performance has made little difference to a Pittsburgh team mired in its longest losing streak since a 12-game slide June 6-18, 2010.

The Pirates begin a six-game road trip after an 0-7 homestand - their worst in 125 years - capped by Sunday's 7-3 loss to San Diego.

Poor pitching has been a key to the Pirates' losing streak. Starters have posted an 8.39 ERA while failing to complete six innings in five games.

Charlie Morton (8-6, 3.80) got past the sixth for the first time in nine starts Wednesday, lasting seven innings in Wednesday's 1-0 loss to the Cubs, and he goes back to the mound Monday.

He's 5-2 with a 3.76 ERA in nine road starts this year, including 5-0 when allowing four runs or less. The right-hander is looking for his first win in four starts overall.

Morton didn't get a decision in a 3-2 home loss to the Giants on April 26, giving up one run in six innings during a series in which Pittsburgh lost two of three games. He's 1-3 with a 3.48 ERA in five career starts against San Francisco.

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