Sitting just out of first place in the NL West and barely outside of wild-card position, the San Francisco Giants have a mild uphill climb to make the postseason.
Their playoff push became significantly more challenging this week.
With Melky Cabrera suspended for the remainder of the regular season following a positive test for testosterone, the Giants hope Friday night's series opener against a San Diego Padres team they usually beat can help get their stretch drive back on track.
About 90 minutes before the start of Wednesday's 6-4 loss to NL East-leading Washington, Giants manager Bruce Bochy informed his team that Cabrera was suspended for testing positive for the banned performance-enhancing substance, violating MLB's joint drug prevention and treatment program. He will miss the final 45 games of the regular season, and either the first five games of the postseason or of 2013.
San Francisco (64-54), which is one-half game behind first-place Los Angeles in the division and one game out of the second wild-card spot, is trying not to dwell on the discouraging news.
"We're disappointed,'' Bochy said. "Our thoughts are right now, we move on. That's all you can do. That's all you can do whether it's an injury or something like this. This team will remain focused on trying to win ballgames. That's where we're at right now. That never changes.''
Winning will be tougher without Cabrera. He had an NL-best 159 hits before his suspension and is tied for the league lead with 84 runs, batting .346 with 11 home runs and 60 RBIs. The Giants were 7-20 in games when Cabrera, the All-Star game MVP, didn't get a hit.
"We are a team. We're trying to make the playoffs,'' third baseman Pablo Sandoval said. "We're going to fight.''
As long as Buster Posey is behind the plate and Matt Cain (11-5, 2.99 ERA) is in the rotation, San Francisco - which has won 17 of the last 23 meetings with the Padres (52-68) - figures to at least be competitive.
Posey had led the way in nine matchups this season, batting .323 with three homers, three doubles and 10 RBIs. He is hitting .343 with four home runs and 12 RBIs in his last eight games in San Diego.
Cain made his lone start of the season series at Petco Park on June 7, yielding three unearned runs while striking out nine in seven innings of an 8-3 win. He improved to 2-3 with a 2.40 ERA in his last seven games in San Diego.
The Padres return to Petco, where they've won four in a row and 10 of 12, after being outscored 18-1 while losing the final three of a four-game series at Atlanta.
Chase Headley, who finished the road trip in a 4-for-20 slump, is batting .324 with three homers and nine RBIs in his last nine home games. He is also hitting .321 with three doubles in 28 at-bats against Cain, who gave up two runs in 7 1-3 innings of Saturday's 9-3 victory over Colorado.
The Padres counter with Ross Ohlendorf (4-3, 6.41), who was tagged for seven runs in three innings of Sunday's 11-5 loss at Pittsburgh.
The right-hander, who made his lone career start against San Francisco in 2010, signed with San Diego in June and has enjoyed pitching at spacious Petco, going 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in three starts.