After a difficult stretch, the Arizona Diamondbacks finally gained ground in the NL West race.
That could come to a halt against Tim Lincecum, who looks to bolster his chances for the NL Cy Young Award when he tries to help the San Francisco Giants avoid a four-game sweep by the Diamondbacks on Thursday.
Arizona (75-76) has won three straight and pulled within 3 1/2 games of the NL West-leading Dodgers with a 7-6 win over the Giants (68-84) on Wednesday. Stephen Drew finished with four hits while Justin Upton hit a two-run homer during a five-run second inning.
The Giants scored three runs in the ninth off Arizona’s bullpen, but reliever Tony Pena retired Randy Winn for the final out to preserve the win. The Diamondbacks had received a boost when the Dodgers lost for only the third time in 17 games.
“This was the first opportunity we’ve had in a while where we look up, they lost and we could capitalize on it,” manager Bob Melvin said. “It’s nice to finally pick up a game. Three and a half is better than four and a half.”
The three-game winning streak is Arizona’s longest since it won four in a row from July 29-Aug. 1. The Diamondbacks entered this series having lost 15 of 19, but they are trying to put that behind them.
“Our goal is to win our ballgames and not worry about what (the Dodgers) do,” Upton said.
Arizona looks to complete its first four-game sweep of San Francisco when it faces Lincecum (17-3, 2.43 ERA), one of the leading candidates for the NL Cy Young Award.
Lincecum appears to be battling Arizona’s Brandon Webb, who recorded his 21st win of the season on Wednesday, for the honor. Lincecum is coming off his first career shutout after he allowed just four hits against the Padres on Saturday, striking out 12 on a career-high 138 pitches in the 7-0 win.
“The guy is a stud,” San Diego’s Chris Young said. “He’s been that way all year.”
Lincecum is the NL’s ERA leader, but despite his success, Giants manager Bruce Bochy has said he’s trying to be cautious about overworking the 24-year-old’s arm. Lincecum is among the leaders in the NL in innings pitched (207 2-3) after logging 146 1-3 innings in his rookie season last year.
The right-hander is 3-0 with a 1.98 ERA in five career starts against the Diamondbacks, including 2-0 with a 2.38 ERA in three outings this season.
While Lincecum has enjoyed great success against the Diamondbacks, Randy Johnson (10-9, 4.11) might be pitching even better this year against the Giants. The 45-year-old left-hander is only 8-8 with a 3.22 ERA in 23 starts against San Francisco, but he is 1-0 with a 0.95 ERA in three starts against them this season and should have won the other two outings if not for shaky work by Arizona’s bullpen.
The five-time Cy Young Award winner does not have a decision in any of his last four starts. He pitched six innings Saturday against Cincinnati, allowing one run and five hits in the 3-2, 10-inning loss.
Johnson had missed his previous turn in the rotation because of shoulder fatigue.