San Francisco (78-62) at San Diego (79-59)

Partly Cloudy Currently: San Diego, CA
Temp: 64° F
  • Game info: 10:05 pm EDT Thu Sep 9, 2010
Preview | Box Score | Recap

After enduring a massive losing streak that nearly knocked them out of first place, the San Diego Padres have regrouped heading into their biggest series of the season.

Separated by two games, the Padres and San Francisco Giants open a pivotal four-game set Thursday night at Petco Park that could go a long way in deciding the NL West champion.

San Diego (79-59) had a seemingly safe 6 1/2-game lead over the Giants (78-62) on Aug. 25, but in losing its next 10 contests that once-comfortable advantage was down to just a game. The Padres’ major league-leading pitching staff recorded a 5.00 ERA during the skid, but got back on track in yielding three total runs in sweeping a three-game series from the Dodgers, capped by Wednesday’s 4-0 victory.

San Diego’s offense is still scuffling a bit, plating four runs or fewer in each of its last 12 games, but coming off a big sweep, the club carries some momentum into this series.

“We are in a position right now where in the month of September every game is going to be tough, especially with the team that’s right behind you right now,” second baseman David Eckstein(notes) said. “But we have to play our game and stay within ourselves.”

The Giants enter this series following Wednesday’s 3-1 loss in Arizona that snapped a four-game winning streak and also dropped them two back in the wild-card race.

“We weren’t under the allusion that we were going to win the rest of the games,” manager Bruce Bochy told the Giants’ official website. “There’s some baseball left here.”

San Francisco plays the Padres in seven of its final 22 games - including the final series of the season at AT&T Park - but that won’t matter much if it continues to struggle against San Diego.

The Padres are 9-2 versus the Giants this year, and 11-3 against them at Petco Park since the start of last season.

San Diego has also routinely frustrated Matt Cain(notes) (10-10, 3.18 ERA), San Francisco’s scheduled starter for the opener.

Cain is 0-2 with a 4.34 ERA in three starts against the Padres this season, and the Giants are 3-13 versus San Diego in Cain’s starts since 2007.

Padres All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez(notes) has given Cain the most problems, batting .440 with three homers in 25 at-bats since 2008.

Despite these struggles, San Francisco has been winning frequently with Cain on the mound lately.

The Giants have won eight of Cain’s 10 starts since the All-Star break with the right-hander going 4-2 with a 2.91 ERA. He didn’t receive a decision in Saturday’s 5-4 win over the Dodgers after giving up four runs and seven hits in seven innings.

While San Francisco has had little luck in Cain’s outings in this series, San Diego scheduled starter Jon Garland(notes) (13-10, 3.31) is 3-0 with a 2.15 ERA in four career starts versus the Giants. In Garland’s lone outing of the season against San Francisco on April 21, the right-hander gave up one run in seven innings of a 5-2 victory.

Garland is hoping a start against the Giants can help him get back in the win column after he was reached for three runs and seven hits over 4 2-3 innings of Saturday’s 6-2 loss to Colorado, his second straight defeat. He had posted a 0.98 ERA in winning his previous three outings.

Garland will be facing a San Francisco offense that is having problems of its own, scoring two runs or fewer in four of seven games this month.

Pablo Sandoval(notes) is in the middle of this funk, batting .150 with a double and RBI in his last seven games after hitting .467 with two home runs, three doubles and nine RBIs in his previous seven.

Sandoval hopes to turn things around against Garland, whom he’s 6 for 9 with a homer and two doubles lifetime against.

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Starting Pitchers

M. Cain SF vs. J. Garland Col
13-11 Record 14-12
3.14 ERA 3.47
177 K 136
61 BB 87
1.08 WHIP 1.32

Scoreboard

Thursday, Sep 9