The Arizona Diamondbacks may have entered the All-Star break atop the NL West, but they still think they can do better.
The San Francisco Giants surely feel the same way about their disappointing first half.
The Diamondbacks emerge from the break Friday night looking to drop the Giants further out of the division race, while San Francisco tries to tighten it.
Arizona (50-45) leads the West by 2 1/2 games on second-place Los Angeles, while Colorado is 4 1/2 back in third with San Francisco trailing by 6 1/2. The Diamondbacks’ slight lead comes despite having lost 10 of 13 on the road and going 21-22 within the division, with losses in nine of the past 14.
“We’ve had our ups and downs, but I don’t think we’ve played our best baseball yet,” All-Star pitcher Patrick Corbin told the team’s official website. “I think we’re just going to get better and better as the season goes on.”
They may need to with San Francisco (43-51) aiming to build on winning three of four over San Diego prior to the break, including Saturday’s no-hitter from Tim Lincecum. The Giants also hit .307 with 24 runs over that stretch after mustering an average of 2.3 while batting .214 during a 3-16 funk.
“We know where we’re at, and what has to happen in the second half, and that’s us getting more consistent in all facets of the game,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “This thing’s not going to happen right away as far as getting right back to where you want to be. It’s a gradual thing, and that happens by playing good baseball.”
Arizona, though, isn’t fooled by the Giants’ struggles.
“This is the team that’s won two out of the last three World Series. They’re still the king of the hill in this division,” Diamondbacks infielder Cliff Pennington said. “You start here after the All-Star break kind of refreshed and ready to go. To play a good team right off the bat is what you want. Every division series is big.
“They’re the top dog in this division. You’ve got to knock them off the hill. Just being ahead of them after the first half doesn’t knock the team that won the World Series two out of the last three years out of it.”
Improvement from Ian Kennedy (3-6, 5.42 ERA) would certainly help. The right-hander owns the staff’s highest ERA, and he’s 0-3 with a 6.58 ERA in seven starts since beating the Chicago Cubs on June 1.
Kennedy, though, is 5-0 with a 2.44 ERA in 10 starts against the Giants since 2011, going 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA in six games at San Francisco.
Paul Goldschmidt, the Diamondbacks’ other All-Star, has also thrived there. The first baseman has a .349 average with five homers, 17 RBIs and 13 walks in 18 career visits.
The Giants are scheduled to turn to Chad Gaudin (3-1, 2.39), who is 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA in six starts since replacing the injured Ryan Vogelsong (broken right hand) in the rotation.
Gaudin’s impressive stretch includes a 6-2 win at Arizona on June 9, when he allowed two runs with seven strikeouts in six innings.
He’s held Goldschmidt hitless in four at-bats, while fanning him twice.
Buster Posey entered the break going 14 for 29 (.483) with eight RBIs in seven games. The All-Star catcher is 9 for 24 (.375) in his career versus Kennedy.