Giants-Diamondbacks Preview

The San Francisco Giants may be atop the NL West, but they’re facing the potential of losing seven games in a row for the first time in nearly four years.

Perhaps Angel Pagan’s expected return can provide a spark.

With their leadoff hitter possibly back in the lineup, the Giants look to begin capitalizing on a three-game set with the last-place Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday night.

San Francisco (43-30) entered this series with Arizona (32-45), which had lost seven of nine, looking to reverse its sluggish streak. That didn’t happen in the opener as the Giants lost for the ninth time in 10 tries with Friday’s 4-1 defeat.

Now, they’re on the brink of their worst losing streak since a seven-game slide June 26-July 2, 2010.

"It’s been that way here through this tough streak," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We are missing the big hit, kind of keep the line moving."

Getting Pagan back could help.

Lower back pain has sidelined the center fielder for four straight games, and the Giants are 43-59 without him over the past two seasons.

"Life was tough without him last year," Bochy told the team’s official website. "We’re struggling a little bit right now, but that’s going to happen."

Pagan is batting a team-high .307 and a whopping .361 with runners in scoring position. He’s 4 for 10 with six RBIs in that scenario against the Diamondbacks this year, and the Giants came up empty on five chances Friday.

If Pagan is unable to play, either Gregor Blanco or Juan Perez will continue to replace him. They’re a combined 5 for 24 (.208) over the past four games.

Ryan Vogelsong (4-3, 3.94 ERA) takes the mound, and he’s 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA over his last four road starts with all of them ending in Giants wins.

The right-hander hasn’t been that effective over his past two starts – both at home – allowing nine runs in 11 innings while losing his only decision.

Trying to get untracked in Arizona may not be ideal for Vogelsong, who is 0-2 with an 8.28 ERA in his last six starts against the Diamondbacks. He’s been hammered for 10 runs in 9 1-3 innings while going 0-1 over his last two visits to Chase Field.

Aaron Hill is 9 for 19 (.474) with a double and a homer off him, and he ended an 0-for-12 slump with two hits and two RBIs on Friday.

Paul Goldschmidt has hit .387 in eight games versus the Giants this year with six doubles, two homers and seven RBIs. That includes going 9 for 20 at home after getting two hits Friday.

Brandon McCarthy (1-9, 5.18), however, is 0-5 with a 5.06 ERA over nine home starts. The venue hasn’t mattered much lately, as the right-hander is 0-4 with a 5.66 ERA in his last eight overall outings.

McCarthy was victimized by a big inning Monday, giving up all three runs he allowed in the second inning before tossing five scoreless while not getting a decision in a 9-3 defeat to Milwaukee.

"Back in a good place. I started attacking more and trying to do everything I could to keep us in it and go as deep as I could," McCarthy said.

He’s 1-0 with a 4.35 ERA in three career starts against the Giants, but he gave up five runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 9-8 home loss to them March 31.