If the San Francisco Giants want to get back into the wild-card race, they have a golden opportunity to gain ground by facing the team they are chasing with their best pitcher on the mound for the start of a critical three-game home series.
San Francisco (77-66) pulled into a tie with Colorado (82-62) for the wild-card lead after sweeping three games at home against the Rockies from Aug. 28-30. Colorado has won 10 of 13 since while the Giants have dropped seven of 12 to fall 4 1/2 games behind.
Lincecum (13-5, 2.34 ERA) has not started since Sept. 3 due to spasms and inflammation in his lower back. He played catch Friday, threw a bullpen session Saturday and said Sunday he felt fine and wasn’t in any pain.
“This whole week’s been big,” Lincecum said. “I’ll be as ready as I should be. I’m going to take it out there like any other start and not put any added pressure on myself.”
The Rockies saw Lincecum at his best Aug. 28 when he struck out eight over eight innings in a 2-0 victory for the Giants. Five days earlier, Colorado beat him 4-2 as he allowed three runs, three hits and a season-high five walks in seven innings.
The Giants ended a four-game skid with a 7-2 victory over the Dodgers on Sunday and know time is running short for a playoff push.
“We need to win ballgames, bottom line - whether it’s the Dodgers, Rockies, Diamondbacks or Padres,” outfielder Randy Winn(notes) said. “We have to handle our business. We can’t look ahead and worry about what other teams are doing.”
The Rockies, meanwhile, are eager for this series as they look to further distance themselves from the Giants. .
“I think that where we are going, it’s probably the best thing in the world for us,” Colorado manager Jim Tracy said. “To get into that environment and realize that we’re staring at the people that have a chance to track you down and go get them.”
The Giants will try to do a better job containing Helton and Ian Stewart(notes). Helton is hitting .426 with seven RBIs against San Francisco while Stewart - a .232 hitter - is batting .318 with two homers and eight RBIs versus San Francisco.
Jason Hammel(notes) (8-7, 4.31) takes the mound for Colorado and will try to record his ninth straight start of yielding three earned runs or fewer. He is 3-1 with a 3.56 ERA over his last eight outings.
The right-hander, though, hasn’t received a decision in his last four starts. He yielded two runs, three hits and struck out eight over 7 1-3 innings Wednesday in a 4-3 victory over Cincinnati.
Hammel is 0-1 with a 2.65 ERA in three starts against San Francisco this year with Colorado scoring a total of six runs in those games. He has never pitched opposite Lincecum.