Dodgers-Giants Preview

The Associated Press

Exactly one month ago, the San Francisco Giants trailed the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers by 7 1/2 games, their largest deficit of the season.

A victory by the Giants in Wednesday's series finale at AT&T Park would move them into a first-place tie, giving the struggling Dodgers company atop the division for the first time since they took over the lead April 11.

After Barry Zito and a pair of relievers limited Los Angeles (43-32) to five hits in Monday's 8-0 win, Ryan Vogelsong scattered seven hits over seven innings in leading San Francisco (42-33) to a 2-0 victory the next night - the Dodgers' seventh loss in eight games.

Melky Cabrera homered and Pablo Sandoval added an RBI single for the Giants, who are closer to the division lead than they've been since after the first day of the season.

While completing a sweep to pull even with their archrival would be a thrill for Giants fans, it could be even more encouraging if scheduled starter Tim Lincecum (2-8, 6.07 ERA) has a strong showing Wednesday.

Lincecum has looked nothing like a two-time Cy Young Award winner during a career-worst 10-start winless streak, and his overall ERA is the second-worst in the majors among qualifying pitchers. The four-time All-Star seemed to be headed toward another disastrous outing Friday in Oakland, falling behind 3-0 in the first inning with the bases still loaded and nobody out.

By his account, he then "got mad in the right way" and proceeded to strike out the side. He pitched the next five innings without allowing another hit before San Francisco rallied in the ninth for a 5-4 win.

"Timmy said enough is enough. He took control, and pitched out of it," manager Bruce Bochy said. "There are not a lot of guys who would do what he did after all he's been through this season."

Although Lincecum didn't get the victory, the Giants finally won with him on the mound after losing his previous nine starts.

Los Angeles has already contributed to Lincecum's struggles this season, and the right-hander hasn't enjoyed much good fortune in the series recently. He yielded four runs and eight hits in five innings of a 6-2 loss to the Dodgers on May 9, falling to 0-4 in his last six starts against them despite a 2.52 ERA.

He'll be facing a Los Angeles team that has plated three runs or fewer in eight of its last nine games - homering once in that stretch - and has been shut out in consecutive games in San Francisco for the first time since Aug. 15 and 16, 1987. Andre Ethier, who ranks second in the NL with 55 RBIs, has gone 11 games without driving in a run.

"You get shut out a couple days and there's frustration," manager Don Mattingly said. "That's natural. It's my job to make sure we keep going."

Mattingly will give the ball to Chad Billingsley (4-6, 4.15), who has an 8.18 ERA in losing his last two starts after posting a 1.29 ERA in winning his first two June outings. Staked to a five-run lead in the second inning against the Los Angeles Angels on Friday, the right-hander got knocked around for six runs and a season-worst 10 hits in five innings of an 8-5 defeat.

Billingsley opposed Lincecum back in May and wasn't particularly sharp, allowing two runs, seven hits and four walks in four innings. He was 0-1 with a 7.84 ERA in his two starts in San Francisco last season.

Buster Posey, who is 5 for 10 with two homers and four RBIs in his last three games, is 10 for 22 with two doubles against Billingsley.

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