Giants-Diamondbacks Preview

The Associated Press

Not losing a series on the road since the All-Star break has helped the San Francisco Giants take control of the NL West.

The Arizona Diamondbacks probably won't catch them but remain a playoff contender.

San Francisco looks to avenge its only series loss of the past month while dimming Arizona's wild-card hopes in a three-game set which begins Friday night in Phoenix.

A 25-13 record since Aug. 2 has allowed the Giants (81-62) to build a big cushion over second-place Los Angeles in the West, and the Diamondbacks (71-72) don't appear to be a threat at 10 games back with 19 to play.

Arizona helped San Francisco's cause by sweeping a two-game set with the Dodgers this week. The Diamondbacks have won five of seven and aren't giving up on the playoffs considering Los Angeles and St. Louis - the leaders in the race for the NL's second wild-card spot - are both slumping.

"It's getting better," manager Kirk Gibson said. "We need to keep running in the same direction we're going now, but it's getting interesting."

Things started to get better with back-to-back wins in San Francisco on Sept. 4 and 5. Gibson's team had dropped the opener of that series for its ninth loss in 11 games.

The Giants haven't lost any of their other seven series since Aug. 15. They haven't lost a series away from home since July 6-8 at Pittsburgh, winning eight and splitting one.

They are an NL-best 21-7 in road games since the break, averaging 6.5 runs, after winning 10 of the last 12.

"I think we're a confident group right now whether it's at home or on the road," shortstop Brandon Crawford said. "It's definitely good that we feel comfortable on the road and we're getting those wins and hopefully we can keep it going."

Crawford had two doubles and two RBIs in an 8-3 win over Colorado on Wednesday. Buster Posey notched his fifth straight multihit game, and Hunter Pence had his 14th RBI in 14 games.

Marco Scutaro had seven hits and scored four runs in that three-game set, just as he did in last week's series with Arizona. He's hit .365 with 24 RBIs in his last 23 road games.

"Pretty much 1-through-9 has been coming through for us," Crawford said.

Matt Cain (13-5, 2.96 ERA) has come through with strong efforts all season. He heads into Friday 3-0 over his last six starts, pitching into the eighth inning and allowing no more than two runs in five of them. However, he hasn't won any of the last three.

The ace right-hander, 7-1 over his last 13 road starts, has split two matchups with the Diamondbacks this season - both in Arizona before the break.

While Cain tries to match a career high with his 14th win, Tyler Skaggs (1-1, 4.43) looks to double his career win total.

The 21-year-old left-hander won his major league debut July 22, but Arizona has lost his last three starts and the most recent was his worst. He gave up five runs in three innings of a 6-5 defeat at San Diego last Friday.

Skaggs has received six runs of support over four starts.

While none of the Giants have faced Skaggs, Justin Upton has 41 at-bats versus Cain and has yet to homer. He's 0 for 5 against him this year.

Upton is hitting .379 with eight RBIs in the last eight home games even though Arizona has lost six of them while averaging 2.1 runs.

The status of Arizona closer J.J. Putz remains uncertain after he was unavailable Wednesday due to a stiff back.

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