(Sports Network) - With first place in the National League's West Division now within their grasp, the San Francisco Giants continue a critical road trip today with the first of three straight meetings with the Arizona Diamondbacks from Chase Field.
San Francisco has taken advantage of San Diego's recent tailspin and closed within a single game of the Padres' lead atop the division with Sunday's 3-0 victory over the rival Los Angeles Dodgers. The win was the Giants' fourth in their last five contests, while the Padres have lost 10 straight games following a 4-2 setback to Colorado yesterday.
The Giants used a stellar pitching performance from Jonathan Sanchez (10-8) to top the Dodgers last night, with the left-hander yielding a mere three hits and striking out nine batters over seven shutout innings.
"I was getting ahead on every hitter," Sanchez said. "When they take the first pitch, I took advantage of it and threw strikes. I'm working on my mechanics and feel I can go deep in the game."
Juan Uribe gave Sanchez some breathing room by belting a two-run homer in the seventh inning to give the Giants a 3-0 advantage, one day after the infielder came through with a go-ahead two-run shot in the ninth that lifted San Francisco to a 5-4 triumph over the Dodgers.
The Giants will attempt to continue their winning ways when they head to Phoenix to take on the last-place Diamondbacks. San Francisco swept a four- game series from Arizona in its last visit to Chase Field and has prevailed in eight of 12 matchups between the NL West foes this season.
Madison Bumgarner helped San Francisco record that above-mentioned sweep with a solid showing against the Diamondbacks on July 24, and will be aiming to duplicate that effort when he takes the mound for today's opener. In his first career start versus Arizona, the rookie surrendered just two runs and struck out seven over seven sharp innings.
Bumgarner has struggled since then, however, having gone 1-2 with a 5.17 earned run average in six subsequent starts. The highly-regarded lefty did turn in a good game this past Tuesday, though, holding Colorado to a run on five hits through six innings in a no-decision.
The 21-year-old's best work this season has come on the road, as Bumgarner is 5-2 with a 3.76 ERA in seven assignments at visiting parks.
He'll be taking on an Arizona squad that has won seven of its last 10 games but will be trying to bounce back from back-to-back home losses to Houston over the weekend. Both of those defeats were by a single run, including Sunday's 3-2 setback in which the Diamondbacks couldn't overcome an early three-run deficit.
Hunter Pence smacked a three-run homer off Arizona starter Rodrigo Lopez in the first inning for Houston's only runs of the day. The blast came after Michael Bourn started the game with a walk and Jeff Keppinger followed with a single to put two runners aboard.
Lopez (5-13) allowed just four more hits over the remainder of his six-inning stint, but was still saddled with his sixth consecutive losing decision.
"I had a hard time adjusting from the stretch, especially with a speedy guy (Bourn) on first base," said Lopez about his rough beginning. "It caused me to throw pitches up in the zone. After that I was able to get the ball down and get my game going the way I wanted it to."
Arizona hopes to provide a little more support for Ian Kennedy today in the right-hander's 28th start of the season. The former New York Yankees prospect hasn't needed much help lately, though, as he's 3-0 with a 2.77 ERA over his last four outings and pitched into the seventh inning in three of those tests.
Kennedy enters today's clash off back-to-back victories over the slumping Padres, including an August 26 masterpiece in San Diego in which he permitted just one hit and fanned a career-best 12 batters in seven innings. In a rematch at Chase Field this past Tuesday, the offseason pickup was touched for three runs in seven frames to help the D-Backs to a 7-4 win.
The 25-year-old is 1-1 with a 3.05 ERA in three previous encounters with San Francisco this season, with the loss coming in a head-to-head battle with Bumgarner on July 24. The Giants scored four times off Kennedy in his 6 2/3 innings of work that night.