An impressive stretch from their rotation has the San Francisco Giants starting to create some distance atop the NL West.
Getting Ryan Vogelsong untracked could keep them rolling.
Vogelsong will try to help the Giants match their longest winning streak of the season as he attempts to bounce back from back-to-back ugly outings Friday night against the sputtering Atlanta Braves.
San Francisco (70-55) has won four in a row after opening this four-game set with a 5-2 victory over Atlanta (71-54) on Thursday.
The Giants, who lead the West by three games over Los Angeles, won a season-best five straight from July 13-18.
The rotation has been outstanding during the current winning streak, getting credit for each victory while compiling a 1.26 ERA.
Vogelsong (10-7, 2.85 ERA) will try to keep that success going, but he’s lost his last two starts while surrendering 11 runs in 5 2-3 innings. Prior to allowing eight runs against Washington on Aug. 13, Vogelsong’s ERA was an NL-best 2.27.
The right-hander struggled early again Sunday, throwing 35 pitches in a three-run first before getting pulled with no outs in the fourth of a 7-1 loss at San Diego.
“The first inning was a long inning,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It probably caught up with him. It was pretty amazing the number of pitches he threw.”
Vogelsong is getting his first home start against the Braves. He was terrific against them on the road July 18, yielding one run and four hits with seven strikeouts in six innings of a 9-4, 11-inning win.
Buster Posey may be back to complete the battery with Vogelsong after he sat out two games with tightness in his right hamstring. When asked if he would be back Friday, he said, “I don’t see any reason why not.”
Posey’s .327 average leads all catchers, and he went 7 for 12 with six RBIs when San Francisco took two of three in Atlanta from July 17-19.
Leadoff hitter Angel Pagan, meanwhile, is batting .467 with 10 runs during a seven-game hitting streak.
The Braves have dropped five of six, but still hold the NL’s first wild-card spot despite dropping 6 1/2 games behind East-leading Washington.
Ben Sheets (4-3, 3.07) is expected to take the mound as he, like Vogelsong, looks to avoid a third consecutive loss.
The right-hander has surrendered 11 runs and five homers in 12 innings in his last two outings. That’s a major departure from his first five starts, during which he went 4-1 with a 1.41 ERA.
Sheets gave up four hits Saturday against the Dodgers, but they all left the park in a 6-4 defeat.
“He’s going to throw strikes,” manager Fredi Gonzalez told the team’s official website. “He’s not going to shy away from the bat.”
Sheets is 4-1 with a 1.73 ERA in his last seven starts against the Giants, but hasn’t faced them since a road loss with Oakland on June 12, 2010.