Giants-Phillies Preview


A post All-Star break surge has the San Francisco Giants in position to record their first road series sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies in almost eight years.

With Barry Zito hoping to continue his recent success Sunday, the NL West-leading Giants try to complete that sweep with a fifth consecutive victory over the Phillies, who look to avoid their longest home skid in 40 seasons.

All-Stars Buster Posey and Melky Cabrera each homered and Gregor Blanco drove in the tiebreaking run with a drag bunt in the 10th inning to give San Francisco (53-41) a 6-5 win over Philadelphia on Saturday.

Looking to complete their first sweep at Philadelphia since Aug. 13-15, 2004, the Giants have averaged 5.5 runs while winning seven of eight since the break to build a 2 1/2-game division lead over Los Angeles.

The Phillies' seven-game home skid is the longest of the same duration since a 2004 slide that included that sweep at the hands of the Giants. An NL-worst 17-29 at home, Philadelphia (41-54) has not dropped eight in a row there since a 10-game losing streak May 16-June 6, 1972.

It appeared the Phillies had a good chance to end that skid Saturday when Ryan Howard's three-run homer in the sixth gave them a 5-4 lead. However, Cabrera tied it with a solo shot in the eighth.

Cabrera has batted .382 with four home runs and 14 RBIs in his last 20 games. He's 7 for 18 (.389) during the Giants' four-game winning streak against the Phillies this season.

Posey, who matched a career high with four hits Saturday, is 11 for 20 versus Philadelphia in 2012.

Zito (8-6, 3.75 ERA) is 3-1 with a 1.80 ERA since he posted a 10.67 ERA while dropping three straight starts from June 8-19. The left-hander allowed three hits over seven innings in a 9-0 win at Atlanta on Tuesday.

It was the fourth time this season Zito did not yield a run, equaling the number of times he accomplished that over the previous two seasons.

"He's tough. I mean mentally tough," manager Bruce Bochy told the Giants' official website. "He's done a great job for us."

Zito is 3-3 with a 4.75 ERA in six starts against the Phillies, but has allowed 10 runs over 12 innings while losing his last two at Citizens Bank Park.

Howard is 1 for 8 with a double against Zito, but has homered in each of the first two games of this series after hitting one in his first eight games of the season.

Joe Blanton (8-8, 4.79) takes the mound looking to help the Phillies avoid the sweep. The right-hander was very good in a 3-2 road win over the Dodgers on Monday, allowing two runs and six hits over eight innings with seven strikeouts and no walks.

"Keeping the ball down was a big difference," said Blanton, who had dropped his previous two starts. "Lately I've had a little bit of trouble doing that as consistently as I did (Monday). I try to throw as many strikes as I can and expand the zone a little bit when I get ahead in the count.''

He gave up four runs and 11 hits in five innings of a 4-2 loss at San Francisco on April 17 to fall to 2-4 with a 5.07 ERA in nine regular season and playoff starts against the Giants.