With just a month remaining in the regular season, there’s not much left to motivate a last-place team.
The San Francisco Giants seem to have remained focused, however, and will look to continue their best run of the season as they play the middle game of their series with the lowly Washington Nationals on Saturday night.
In a series pitting two of the NL’s three last-place teams, San Francisco beat Washington 3-2 on Friday night. These teams, though, are headed in opposite directions.
The Giants (62-73) have won 12 of 15, and a win Saturday would give them seven straight road wins for the first time since an eight-game run in April 2003. The Nationals (58-77), meanwhile, have lost seven straight, and another loss would match their longest skid of the season, set from May 1-9.
San Francisco has been getting by despite struggling at the plate, scoring just six runs in its last three games. Barry Bonds is expected to be back in the starting lineup Saturday after getting a day off in this series’ opener.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy used Thursday’s travel day and Friday’s game to give Bonds consecutive days off.
Strong pitching has carried San Francisco in recent weeks, allowing three runs or less in seven of the last nine games. Jonathan Sanchez (1-2, 5.30 ERA) will now make his first start of the season for the Giants, who will call up the left-hander from Triple-A Fresno to start for Tim Lincecum.
Lincecum’s turn in the rotation is being skipped to give him some extra rest. All 29 of Sanchez’s appearances for San Francisco in 2007 were in relief before he was sent to the minors on Aug. 11.
“He has tons of potential,” Bochy told the Giants’ official Web site. “We wanted him to go down there and pitch some innings, to try to get consistency on all his pitches.”
Sanchez made four starts for San Francisco at the end of last season, going 1-1 with a 7.36 ERA. This will be his first appearance against the Nationals.
Washington will counter with rookie Joel Hanrahan (3-2, 5.90 ERA), who is coming off a terrible outing. The right-hander was roughed up for nine runs and eight hits in 2 2-3 innings of a 10-5 loss to Colorado on Sunday.
Hanrahan had a 3.42 ERA in his previous five starts.
He earned a win against the Giants on Aug. 9, yielding one run and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 3-1 victory. It was the rookie’s first start against San Francisco.
A strong start from Hanrahan would certainly be welcome for a Nationals team that has blown a lead in each game during its skid.
Washington is a season-worst 19 games below .500, and manager Manny Acta called a team meeting before Friday’s game. Acta said he didn’t think his team was pressing.
“I don’t think we’re going to win the division,” Acta deadpanned, “so I don’t think they’re going to press.”