Pittsburgh-Giants: What to watch for

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Pittsburgh-Giants: What to watch for

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Get all your Saturday Giants coverage on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Giants Pregame Live starts the party at 5:30 p.m. Watch the Pirates and Giants game at 6:05 p.m. and Giants Postgame Live after the last out.

The Giants' uncharacteristic start to the 2012 season is picking up momentum. They've scored four or more runs in each of the first seven games, and their starting pitchers have thrown shutouts in two of the past four starts.One of those shutouts was authored by Barry Zito, who will take the mound tonight against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game 2 of the three-game bayside set.Here are some things to watch for in the Saturday evening game:Fending doubt: Barry Zito silenced naysayers with his first shutout since 2003 on Monday. All 27 outs go out the window when he takes the mound tonight as the contract-elicited magnifying glass focuses on Zito's every start.When the 13-year veteran can effectively locate his pitches and carve the edges of the strike zone, he is still a dangerous pitcher. But 1,687 strikeouts in, his stuff isn't electric enough to miss.Zito, 33, has faced the Pirates three times over the past three years with an ERA of ... 3.00.Watch your Hips: Carlie Morton is making his first start of the season, and his return from hip surgery. Morton is coming off his best season as a big leaguer. He was 10-10 with a 3.83 ERA in 29 starts in 2011."I've been ready," Morton told the Pirates' official website. "I'm really eager to get back out there."He's especially eager to face the Giants, who he's owns a 0.64 ERA against in two starts.But the 2012 Giants have shown signs they're breaking free from the offensive shackles of years past.Whole Melky: There are a number of changes to the Giants' 2012 lineup, but none more impressive than the infusion of Melky Cabrera into its heart.Cabrera has hit safely in each of the first seven games, and he has hit safely twice in five of them.He barely got his chin over the 200-hit mark last season with the Royals -- getting hits 200 and 201 in the antepenultimate game. In his eighth full season and a contract year, Cabrera looks to be gunning for the mark.Bay Pirates: The Giants haven't exactly been able to keep Pirates from patrolling San Francisco Bay at their leisure; Pittsburgh has the third-best winning percentage at AT&T Park among NL opponents. NL Team Win Record
Dodgers .519 56-52
Cubs .512 22-21
Pirates .474 18-20McClutchen: Andrew McCutchen -- like batters 1-through-8 in the Pirates' order -- was a non-factor in Friday's game, but he's out to a hot start this year.The Bucs' center fielder is batting .360 in the first seven games, and he sees Zito well. He owns a 4-for-9 career mark against the Giants' lefty.

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- The blisters on Johnny Cueto's middle and index fingers that limited his effectiveness in his last few starts haven't yet completely healed.

But the two-time All-Star is learning to pitch with them.

Cueto threw six strong innings and Brandon Crawford drove in three runs as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Atlanta Braves 7-1 on Sunday.

Cueto (5-4) bounced back from his roughest stretch as a Giant. He was 0-3 with a 4.33 ERA in his previous four starts.

"They're not bothering me like they were before," Cueto said through a translator. "I'm just getting used to it but I have to continue pitching until they get better."

The Giants won their third straight home series and posted their 11th victory in 18 games overall.

Crawford's two-run single highlighted a four-run second against R.A. Dickey (3-4) that made it 6-0.

Matt Kemp had three hits for Atlanta. But the Braves couldn't get much going against Cueto, who allowed one run on six hits and a walk. Cueto struck out eight, including five in a row at one point.

"He did what he needed to do to get us out," Kemp said. "We had chances to score runs and we didn't. I think in this series we really didn't do a good score of scoring runs."

Dickey allowed a season-high seven runs (six earned) on six hits and five walks in six innings.

"This can be a challenging place to throw because of the wind because it swirls so much," Dickey said.

Eduardo Nunez and Gorkys Hernandez each had two hits for the Giants. Joe Panik tripled to start the second-inning burst.

Cueto had two productive at-bats, bunting a runner to second in the second inning and driving in a run with a sacrifice fly in the third.

"It's always nice to have a lead and I thought Johnny was the sharpest he'd been this year," Giants catcher Buster Posey said. "Hopefully it's something he can build on. The changeup was working really well and his command of the fastball was really good."

Posey was 0 for 2 with two walks. He hasn't struck out in 55 consecutive plate appearances.

FUN FACTOR:
The Giants scored the game's first run when Nunez came around from third when a knuckleball glanced off catcher Kurt Suzuki glove in the bottom of the first. The play was ruled a passed ball. Asked if he had any empathy for the plight of his counterpart, Posey said "Yes, no question. It's not fun to hit, it doesn't look fun to catch, either."

FANCY FIELDING:
Hernandez made a diving catch in the gap in left-center robbing Emilio Bonifacio of an extra-base hit with one out in the seventh inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Braves: 2B Brandon Phillips left in the fifth for pinch-hitter Jace Peterson. Phillips fouled a ball off his foot in his last at-bat in the third.

Giants: LHP Madison Bumgarner will start his throwing program on Friday, manager Bruce Bochy said. Bumgarner will start out playing catch and make five rehab starts. The 2014 World Series MVP suffered a separated left shoulder in a dirt biking accident. "The progress is happening," Bochy said. "I think he sees light at the end of the tunnel." ... Slumping rookie INF Christian Arroyo was out of the lineup on Sunday and his playing status appears uncertain. Arroyo, who turns 22 on Tuesday, is 0 for 19 in his last five games. "I'll talk to him, about what his situation is," Bochy said. "I'm definitely planning on giving him a couple of days" off.

UP NEXT:
Braves: RHP Julio Teheran will make his first career start against the Angels in Anaheim on Monday. He is 3-9 with a 5.63 ERA in 15 career interleague starts.

Giants: LHP Matt Moore will face the Nationals for the second time in his career. He was with Tampa Bay when he gave up two runs in five innings against Washington in 2012.

Giants lineup: Posey catching, Nunez at third base against Braves

Giants lineup: Posey catching, Nunez at third base against Braves

The Giants look to win two straight against the Braves and Bruce Bochy has made a few changes to the lineup Sunday.

Atlanta Braves (21-26)

1. Ender Inciarte (L) CF
2. Brandon Phillips (R) 2B
3. Nick Markakis (L) RF
4. Matt Kemp (R) LF
5. Matt Adams (L) 1B
6. Kurt Suzuki (R) C
7. Rio Ruiz (L) 3B
8. Dansby Swanson (R) SS
9. R.A. Dickey (R) P

San Francisco Giants (21-30)

1. Denard Span (L) CF
2. Eduardo Nunez (R) 3B
3. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Justin Ruggiano (R) RF
7. Joe Panik (L) 2B
8. Gorkys Hernandez (R) LF
9. Johnny Cueto (R) P