Giants host another West power, Diamondbacks (Sep 15, 2017)

BY AP • September 15, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco Giants get a second chance to play the spoiler when they open a three-game series against the postseason-contending Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night.

The Giants failed on an opportunity to bring the Los Angeles Dodgers closer to the pack earlier this week, losing two of three to the National League West front-runners.

Now they get a shot at the No. 2 in the West, the Diamondbacks (85-62), whose 7-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Thursday moved them within 9 1/2 games of the Dodgers (94-52).

More important, the win strengthened the Diamondbacks' hold on the top wild-card spot in the NL. Arizona is five games up on the Rockies (80-67) and 7 1/2 ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers (77-69) and St. Louis Cardinals (77-69) in the duel for final two postseason berths.

The Giants (57-91) walked away disappointed from the Dodgers series, believing they had a legitimate shot at sweeping the previously tail-spinning club.

However, after a San Francisco win Monday in the series opener, shaky pitching, sloppy defense and poor baserunning conspired to doom the Giants in losses Tuesday and Wednesday.

"There's not very much that feels good about what went on," Giants left-hander Matt Moore said after his club's 4-1 loss Wednesday. "Regardless of what's going on in the season, we've got to be better than that."

The Giants had their home fans booing when a similar pop fly to shallow right field fell behind right fielder Hunter Pence and second baseman Joe Panik two nights in a row, with each fielder waiting for the other to take the last step required to make the easy catch.

San Francisco surely will have to play a better brand of ball to avoid a similar fate against the Diamondbacks, who have won 16 of their past 20 games. That stretch included a three-game home sweep of the Giants, before which the clubs had played to a 5-5 standoff in the season series.

J.D. Martinez, a relative newcomer to the Diamondbacks at the time following an in-season trade from the Detroit Tigers, contributed three home runs to the 4-3, 2-1 and 11-0 sweep.

He is even hotter now, having gone 8-for-15 with two homers, four RBIs and seven runs in the just completed four-game split with the Rockies.

Martinez has hit safely and driven in at least one run in each of the past seven games.

"There have been some marquee pickups, and this has been a pretty impressive one," Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said of Martinez, who has 10 homers in September. "He set a franchise record for home runs in the second half (23), and he hasn't even been here the whole second half. That just speaks volumes to what he's done."

The task of cooling down Martinez on Friday night falls upon Giants right-hander Jeff Samardzija (9-13, 4.47 ERA).

He is coming off one of his most disappointing outings of the season, having been rocked for four home runs in a 13-1 road loss to the Chicago White Sox. He gave up six runs in 5 2/3 innings during that outing on Saturday.

Samardzija has a 3-3 record and 4.43 ERA in 15 games (10 starts) in his career against the Diamondbacks.

He will be opposed by Arizona left-hander Robbie Ray (13-5, 2.81 ERA), who has been one of the best pitchers in the NL of late.

Ray has won each of his past four starts, limiting opponents to a total of four runs in 25 1/3 innings (1.42 ERA).

He is 2-1 with a 3.15 ERA in six career starts against the Giants, with both wins coming at AT&T Park, where he has compiled a 1.53 ERA in three outings.

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