Giants-Diamondbacks Preview

While the overachieving Arizona Diamondbacks are fresh off the

completion of an improbable run to the NL West title, the San

Francisco Giants are on the verge of becoming the first World

Series champion in five years to miss the playoffs the next

season.

One day after watching the Diamondbacks clinch the division

crown, the Giants look for some rare success this season against

20-game winner Ian Kennedy on Saturday night at Chase Field.

Rookie Paul Goldschmidt’s two-run, tiebreaking triple in the

eighth inning gave Arizona (91-66) a 3-1 victory Friday to complete

a worst-to-first turnaround and win the fifth division title –

first since 2007 – in the franchise’s 14-year history.

“They are a team that really does play until the end,” Giants

losing pitcher Matt Cain said. “They find different guys each night

to spark plug the offense.”

The Diamondbacks, who went 65-97 in 2010, are not content with

simply reaching the postseason 10 years after the club’s only World

Series title.

“We are going to keep coming out and playing hard,” infielder

Ryan Roberts said. “We kept believing and that’s what we are going

to do going forward.”

San Francisco (84-73), meanwhile, would be eliminated from

postseason contention with another loss. The 2007 St. Louis

Cardinals were the last team to miss the postseason one year after

winning the World Series.

Losers in three of four since winning eight in a row, the Giants

managed to remain competitive despite a rash of injuries to key

players.

“We are breathing. Five games left, we are still breathing,”

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “That is why there is no need to

talk. We’ve still got baseball.”

The Giants face a huge task against Kennedy (20-4, 2.88 ERA) who

takes the mound after he allowed one hit and struck out a career

high-tying 12 in eight innings of a 1-0 win over Pittsburgh on

Monday to become the NL’s first 20-game winner.

Arizona’s first 20-game winner since Brandon Webb won 22 in

2008, Kennedy is 5-0 with a 1.48 ERA in six starts since losing at

Philadelphia on Aug. 18. That is the right-hander’s only defeat

while posting a 2.21 ERA and winning 12 of his last 14 starts.

“What a season he’s having,” Diamondbacks closer J.J. Putz

said. “He’s worked his butt off all season long, and he’s been our

ace and then some, and hopefully keeps going and gets some hardware

at the end of the year.”

As good as Kennedy has been overall this season, he’s been

better while going 2-0 with a 0.87 ERA and 31 strikeouts in four

starts versus San Francisco in 2011. In his only home start against

the Giants this year, Kennedy yielded an unearned run and fanned 10

in eight innings of a 3-2, 10-inning victory June 16.

Carlos Beltran, 4 for 11 with a double and triple versus

Kennedy, has hit .432 (19 for 44) during an 11-game hitting streak

for the Giants.

San Francisco’s Eric Surkamp (2-0, 2.95) makes his fifth career

start and first versus Arizona on Saturday. The left-hander worked

around six walks to allow one run over 4 2-3 innings during a 6-5

win at Colorado last Saturday.

“What I like about him is his poise,” Bochy told the Giants’

official website. “He doesn’t cave in.”