The San Francisco Giants would love to end a rocky first half of the season on a high note.
They’ll try for their first three-game sweep in St. Louis in more than nine years as they wrap up their series with the Cardinals on Sunday.
The Giants’ last three-game road sweep of the Cardinals (39-45) came June 5-7, 1998. St. Louis, meanwhile, hasn’t been swept at home in three games since their season-opening set against the New York Mets.
San Francisco (38-47) beat St. Louis 4-3 on Saturday to guarantee its first road series win since a three-game sweep of Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium April 24-26. Randy Winn singled in two runs for the Giants, who have won five of their last seven but are still mired in last place in the NL West.
Slugger Barry Bonds went 0-for-2 with two walks, remaining at 751 career homers—four shy of Hank Aaron’s all-time record. Bonds, who was selected to start in Tuesday’s All-Star game in San Francisco, was lifted for Fred Lewis late in the game for the second straight night, but manager Bruce Bochy said he expects Bonds to play Sunday.
St. Louis manager Tony La Russa typically has his pitchers attack Bonds instead of pitching around him, but the seven-time MVP has walked five times in the series.
Skip Schumaker hit a tying solo home run in the sixth for the Cardinals, who had won four of five coming into this series. Aaron Miles, who has been filling in a shortstop with David Eckstein on the disabled list, made three errors in the seventh inning that led to three unearned runs.
In Friday’s 4-3 loss, So Taguchi dropped a ball in center field, allowing three runs to score.
“We had a couple of golden opportunities,” La Russa said. “To me that’s a bigger story.”
First baseman Albert Pujols hit a pair of singles, but his homerless streak reached 21 games and a career-worst 71 at-bats.
The Giants are hoping Barry Zito (6-8, 4.65 ERA) can snap a five-start winless streak in the finale. Zito, who has not won since June 4 at Philadelphia, went five innings on Tuesday and gave up three runs, including two on bases-loaded walks in the fifth, but escaped without a decision in the Giants’ 7-3 loss in Cincinnati.
Bochy thinks the seven-year, $126 million contract Zito signed in the offseason as a free agent is still weighing on his mind.
“I think, if anything, Barry has got to relax a little more,” Bochy told the Giants’ official team Web site. “He’s put added pressure on himself. … He’s overburdened himself a little bit with the expectations of being the pitcher that he is.”
Historically, Zito has been a better pitcher in the second half of the season, going 59-27 after the All-Star break as opposed to 49-44 before.
“I think if Barry would lighten up a little bit, trust his stuff and get back to throwing strikes, he’ll be fine,” Bochy told the Giants’ site.
Zito’s only previous start against the Cardinals came on June 15, 2004, when he allowed three runs in five innings without receiving a decision as his Oakland Athletics lost 8-4 in St. Louis.
The Cardinals will counter with Todd Wellemeyer (2-1, 4.74), who is 2-1 with a 5.17 in seven starts since moving into the Cardinals’ rotation, and is one of several pitchers battling to remain a starter in the second half of the season. He likely hurt his chances in his last start on Tuesday, when he gave up six runs and three homers in three innings of a 7-1 loss to Arizona.
Wellemeyer has never faced the Giants, but said he is looking forward to squaring off against Bonds.
“He’s the best hitter in the game; why wouldn’t you want to face him?” he told the Cardinals’ official Web site. “If he gets me, he gets me. But I’m going to go after him. I can say I pitched to that guy.”