Diamondbacks-Giants Preview

Entrenched in baseball’s most intriguing division race, the San

Francisco Giants will start one pitcher twice over their final six

games.

They probably couldn’t ask for a better candidate than Jonathan

Sanchez.

The left-hander has spearheaded San Francisco’s brilliant

September pitching with an ERA under 1.00, a standard he’ll look to

maintain Tuesday night as he makes his penultimate start in a

matchup with the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Giants (88-68) would not be in such a tight race with San

Diego if not for their outstanding pitching staff, which has a 1.66

ERA since Sept. 5 to lead the team to 13 wins in 20 games.

San Francisco allowed three runs or fewer in 18 consecutive

games before a 10-9, 10-inning loss to Colorado on Saturday. The

Giants bounced right back with another outstanding pitching

performance Sunday, as Matt Cain held the Rockies scoreless into

the eighth inning and San Francisco went on to win 4-2.

Colorado fell 4 1/2 games back of the Giants in the division,

essentially leaving San Francisco and San Diego to battle it out

over the final week.

“To try to get them set back just a little bit was definitely a

momentum-builder for us,” Cain told the Giants’ official website.

“It seems like (the Rockies) are always hot in September.”

No one’s been hotter this month than Sanchez (11-9, 3.16 ERA),

who has posted a major league-low 0.73 ERA in four September

outings and will start San Francisco’s season finale against the

Padres on Sunday.

First up is his third start versus Arizona (64-92), and he’ll be

trying to rebound from a loss. He allowed two runs – one earned –

over 5 2-3 innings at Wrigley Field on Wednesday, but suffered a

2-0 defeat.

“It’s one of those things when you’re not scoring a lot of

runs,” Sanchez said. “… But that’s baseball. That’s how it

goes.”

The defeat was Sanchez’s first in seven starts.

Sanchez didn’t pitch deep into either start against the

Diamondbacks, but Arizona certainly had trouble hitting him. Nine

total walks limited him to five innings in each outing, but he

struck out 17 and allowed six hits in going 1-0 with a 1.80

ERA.

The Diamondbacks have batted .189 against Sanchez in seven

starts over the past two seasons, with Sanchez going 4-1 with a

2.45 ERA and 48 strikeouts over 40 1-3 innings. Kelly Johnson,

however, is 7 for 12 with five extra-base hits against him

lifetime.

Johnson has enjoyed a resurgent year in Arizona after a rough

2009 with Atlanta, and he’s been the team’s offensive catalyst over

the past week. The second baseman has batted .440 with three homers

and six RBIs as the Diamondbacks have won five of six.

Rodrigo Lopez (7-14, 5.04) looks to help Arizona stay hot as he

tries to win a third straight start. The right-hander gave up four

runs and five hits – two homers – over five innings of an 8-4

victory over Colorado on Wednesday.

His track record against the Giants suggests he might have

trouble earning a victory. Lopez is 0-2 with a 7.46 ERA in five

starts versus San Francisco.

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval, hitting .163 this month, is 4 for

10 with a homer and three doubles against Lopez.