Giants set to welcome red-hot Nationals in pivotal series

August 13, 2012, 2:00 am
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SAN FRANCISCO Things are about to get a little tougher at 24 Willie Mays Plaza.

After taking two of three from the bottom-dwelling Colorado Rockies, the Giants will welcome the major-league leading Nationals to town for a three-game set beginning Monday. Washington owns a league-best 3.25 team ERA, and will send its three winningest starters to the mound in Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman and Stephen Strasburg.

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Theyre so solid starting pitching, bullpen, lineup, Bruce Bochy said. You dont have the record that they have unless youre good. Theyre playing well now and on a good roll. We know it. Its going to be up to us to go out there and not make any mistakes and play our best ball.

Washington swept the Giants in the nations capital in early July by a combined score of 24-12. San Francisco has won its last two games after dropping the series opener to the Rockies on Friday, though, while scoring 18 runs in the process.

Were feeling pretty good. Its going to be a big series and a tough series and theyre playing great ball. But theyre coming here, and its not easy to play here, Hunter Pence said. Our pitching staff is pretty good, too. Its going to be an exciting series and its going to be something you could see later on down the line, as well.

The Giants didnt play a perfect game on Sunday in a 9-6 defeat of Colorado, but found a way to rally and win for just the fourth time this season when trailing after seven innings (4-46).

We were down and there was a lot of stuff going wrong for us, but it didnt matter, everybody just came together and did what they had to do to get the job done, said Brandon Belt.

Theres also a chance that one of the Giants key bats will get back into the lineup as Pablo Sandoval could rejoin the team after rehabbing a strained left hamstring in Class-A San Jose this weekend.

Bochy wouldnt put odds on a Sandoval return, but said on Saturday that Sandoval was on target for Monday. Whether or not hell play is apparently to be determined.

When Sandoval returns, the Giants will boast an impressive middle part of their order with leading hitter Melky Cabrera, MVP candidate Buster Posey, the newcomer Pence, and maybe even Brandon Belt, who was 4-for-4 on Sunday.

Its an All-Star bat coming into the lineup and its going to be a big pickup. Were looking forward to getting Sandoval back, said Pence.

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