After winning a key series against a division rival, the Chicago Cubs look to remain atop the NL Central standings when they open a three-game set against the San Francisco Giants and one of the major’s top young pitchers on Tuesday night at AT&T Park.
Chicago (63-60) lost 6-4 to the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday, but still took two of three in the abbreviated four-game set after Sunday’s game was postponed by rain. The Cubs, who are three games ahead of the third-place Cardinals, are competing with St. Louis and Milwaukee for the division lead.
Chicago heads West for the final time in 2007, starting with last-place San Francisco (55-70), which beat Florida 8-7 on Monday to complete a four-game road sweep over the Marlins. The Giants, who went 6-3 on their recent trip, will be looking for their sixth straight victory.
After facing the Giants, the Cubs play three against NL West-leading Arizona.
“We’ve got a tough little trip,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.
Lee went 5-for-7 in the final two games against St. Louis and is 3-for-7 with a homer against the Giants this season. He went 1-for-3 against rookie Tim Lincecum, who will start Tuesday for San Francisco, which lost three of four at Chicago last month.
Lincecum (7-3, 3.95 ERA) will try for his second straight win after allowing three runs and five hits in five innings of a 9-3 win at Atlanta on Thursday. The right-hander allowed one run in 6 1-3 innings, but didn’t factor in a 3-2 loss on July 16 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Chicago will counter with Jason Marquis (10-7, 4.25) as he tries for his third straight winning decision. Marquis allowed four runs in the second inning, but none after that while giving up seven hits in six innings of a 12-4 home win over Cincinnati on Thursday.
“I was trying to be too perfect and nitpick,” Marquis told the Cubs’ official Web site. “I was able to right myself after that.”
The right-hander will try to remain perfect against San Francisco. He is 3-0 with a 2.38 ERA in three career starts against the Giants.
Barry Bonds, who added to his all-time home run record with his 760th against Florida on Saturday, has fared well against Marquis during his career, going 5-for-10 with two homers.
Bonds could be back in the Giants lineup Tuesday after sitting the final two contests against the Marlins. San Francisco is 24-28 at home this season with Bonds in the lineup, but 8-7 when he homers.
In the July series at Wrigley Field, Bonds pinch-hit, then started the final game of the set, going 3-for-3 with two homers and six RBIs in the Giants’ 9-8 loss.
On Monday, Bengie Molina went 4-for-5 with three RBIs for San Francisco, which pounded out 17 hits and rallied from a 4-0 deficit. Molina is batting .533 (8-for-15) with eight RBIs in his last four games.
San Francisco - on its longest winning streak since a season-high eight-game run from April 18-26 - is batting .295 and outscoring its opponents 30-18 during its current spurt.
“Everybody is relaxing a little bit, playing together and picking each other up,” Molina said. “It’s making a difference now. This what we need to do - to finish up the season strong.”