Outstanding starting pitching has buoyed the San Francisco Giants all year, and their recent surge has been no exception.
A strong performance on the road, however, has been a bit rarer.
Jonathan Sanchez(notes) will take the mound Sunday, hoping to continue one trend but end another as the Giants seek their first road sweep of the season in the finale of a three-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Cy Young Award candidates Tim Lincecum(notes) and Matt Cain(notes) have anchored San Francisco’s rotation, which leads the majors with a 3.46 ERA, and Cain pitched the Giants (75-61) to a second consecutive 3-2 victory in Milwaukee on Saturday.
But the back end of the Giants’ staff has often helped - especially Sanchez, who is 4-3 with a 2.87 ERA in his last 10 starts, a stretch that began with his no-hitter against San Diego on July 10.
He has turned in two quality starts in San Francisco’s last 11 games, with the team going 8-3 over that span thanks to a 2.97 ERA from its starting pitchers. The run has kept the Giants still tangled in a tight race with Colorado for the NL wild card.
“You can see the end of the regular season but we’re shooting for, obviously, the playoffs,” Cain said. “There’s a lot right now riding on everything. So you go out there and every start you know stuff’s on the line.”
One of San Francisco’s rare recent losses was dealt to Sanchez (6-11, 4.15 ERA), who didn’t get any run support in a 1-0 loss at Philadelphia on Tuesday. The Giants have struggled offensively on the road all season, averaging 3.6 runs and going 31-40 outside of the Bay Area.
They can complete a winning trip, however, with a victory Sunday, but Sanchez will likely need to overcome a history of problems at Miller Park. In two previous starts there, he has a 22.50 ERA.
The Giants have won three of their first five on this trip despite scoring a total of 11 runs. Juan Uribe(notes) is one of the few San Francisco hitters showing some pop lately, hitting his second home run in his last four games in Saturday’s win.
“When he gets hot he can carry a ballclub,” manager Bruce Bochy said of Uribe, who is batting .361 (13 for 36) with four homers in his last 11 games.
He’ll be trying to hit Milwaukee’s Braden Looper(notes) (11-6, 4.92), who also has a troubling track record against his opponent. He has lost his only two previous starts against the Giants, with a 10.61 ERA in those outings.
The Brewers have lost six of Looper’s last eight starts overall, including Tuesday’s 7-6 defeat at St. Louis. Looper gave up four runs in six innings in that game and didn’t get a decision.
Milwaukee (65-70) has lost four of five - including three one-run games - to dash any lingering hopes of a postseason push. The Brewers are in danger of being swept at home for the second time in two weeks after Cincinnati won three games in Milwaukee from Aug. 25-27.