The Giants are still trying to make the playoffs and helping Lincecum end his road slump would be a good start toward reaching that goal.
The Dodgers (89-60), who lead Colorado by five games and third-place San Francisco by 8 1/2, know they will likely see one of the NL’s best pitchers in division series opener. Among their likely opponents are Cliff Lee(notes) or Cole Hamels(notes) of Philadelphia or Chris Carpenter(notes) or Adam Wainwright(notes) of St. Louis.
Hamels beat Los Angeles twice in last season’s NL championship series, including a pennant-clinching victory in Game 5.
“You’re going to face the best in the postseason,” manager Joe Torre told the Dodgers’ official Web site. “The rules against those guys is to try to match them. More pressure’s probably on your pitcher to pitch as well against (the other) team as (the opposing) pitcher does against our team.”
Lincecum (14-5, 2.30 ERA) has also presented a difficult matchup for most teams over the past two seasons, but the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner is 0-3 with a 5.04 ERA in his last four road starts.
He’s also alternated losses and wins in his last four appearances overall with both defeats coming on the road. After missing a start with spasms and inflammation in his lower back, Lincecum returned Monday night to beat Colorado.
He allowed one run and six hits over seven innings in the 9-1 victory to lower his NL-best ERA and had 11 strikeouts for the second straight game to push his NL-leading total to 244.
“I got a break for all the wrong reasons,” Lincecum said. “But it helped me take a step back and have a look at what I was doing and what I needed to be doing.”
Lincecum is 3-0 with a 2.56 ERA in six career games against Los Angeles, but has never won a road start against the Dodgers. He earned a victory in relief last season at Dodger Stadium and now must try and contain a team that hit four home runs in Saturday’s 12-1 rout, highlighted by Ronnie Belliard’s(notes) first-inning grand slam.
Belliard went deep for the second time in three games and has hit four homers since the Dodgers acquired him Aug. 30 from Washington. Matt Kemp(notes), James Loney(notes) and Blake DeWitt(notes) added solo homers,
With its fifth win in eight games against San Francisco, Los Angeles reduced its magic number to nine. The Giants (80-68), meanwhile, fell 3 1/2 games behind the Rockies in the wild card race after Colorado routed Arizona.
To draw closer, the Giants likely will have to end Randy Wolf’s(notes) win streak, which began in San Francisco on Aug. 11. Wolf (10-6, 3.24) is 5-0 with a 2.34 ERA in his last seven starts and 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA in his last five against the Giants.
The left-hander missed his scheduled start against the Giants on Sept. 11 due to a hyperextended left elbow but returned Tuesday. He did not get a decision in a 5-4, 13-inning win over Pittsburgh after allowing three runs and five hits over seven.
Heading into the final matchup between the teams this season, Los Angeles leads the series 10-7, winning five of eight at home.