Although there is little on the line for the remainder of the regular season, the NL West-champion San Francisco Giants realize it's still important to play with the same intensity as if they were fighting for a playoff spot.
This is especially true for Tim Lincecum, who is trying to earn a spot in the postseason rotation.
Lincecum looks to win three straight starts for the first time all season when he takes the ball for the Giants in Tuesday's series opener against an Arizona Diamondbacks team clinging to dwindling playoff hopes.
A day after winning their second division title in three years, Bruce Bochy decided to rest his regulars for Sunday's finale with San Diego. Not surprisingly, San Francisco (89-64) lost 6-4, just its second defeat in 12 games.
The Giants, who seem unlikely to catch NL Central-champion Cincinnati or what will likely be Washington coming out of the East, are expected to have their regulars back in the lineup against the Diamondbacks.
"It's important to keep the same focus ... of wanting to play the game hard," NL MVP candidate Buster Posey told the Giants' official website.
Lincecum (10-14, 4.91 ERA), originally slated to pitch Sunday, might have to use his final few starts as an audition to be a postseason starter. If he continues to pitch the way he has over the last month, though, it seems he could secure a spot.
After recording a 5.45 ERA in his first 25 starts, the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner is 4-1 with a 2.78 ERA in his last six. Against Colorado last Tuesday, he allowed five hits with six strikeouts in 6 1-3 scoreless innings of a 6-3 win.
"That's the Timmy that we know, and we're going to need him down the stretch,'' Bochy said. "Timmy's tough when he's on his game, and he's on it right now.''
Lincecum's last outing dropped his ERA below five for the first time all season.
"I know it's been a long year. You never stop working,'' the right-hander said. "I feel like I'm getting back to that point.''
Lincecum's struggles against the Diamondbacks, however, predate this season. He has a 5.52 ERA in losing his last five starts in the series, and hasn't defeated Arizona since Sept. 29, 2010.
He'll be facing a Diamondbacks team which totaled 33 runs and 48 hits in winning its first three games at Coors Field before managing five hits in a 4-2 loss in Monday's finale. It was just the second defeat in eight games for Arizona (77-76), which dropped 5 1/2 back of St. Louis for the league's second wild-card spot with nine to play.
"We're not out of it yet,'' said Jason Kubel, who hit his 30th homer Monday. "Some things can happen.''
Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt has been stuck on 18 home runs since Aug. 16, but could be poised for a big game Tuesday, given that he is 7 for 13 with four homers and a double lifetime against Lincecum.
The Diamondbacks counter with Tyler Skaggs (1-3, 5.83), who permitted five runs in four innings of a 6-2 loss to the Giants on Sept. 14. Hunter Pence went 2 for 2 with a grand slam off Skaggs.
That outing is part of a current three-start slump for the left-hander, who has a 10.50 ERA in that span. He had a 2.60 ERA in his first three big league starts.