Arizona, the defending National League West champion, had won nine straight games against the Giants dating back to last year, the last three of which came in this season's opening series. But San Francisco took some momentum back when it took two of three games at Arizona earlier this month and has a chance to repeat that feat after topping the D-backs, 4-2, in a Memorial Day matinee Monday.
In sending right-hander Ryan Vogelsong to the mound for Tuesday's game at AT&T Park, the Giants have to feel good about their chances of winning their third straight game. The 34-year-old has been on a tear in May, posting a 1.56 ERA in five starts and notching all three of the wins he has for the year.
Vogelsong will be tasked with slowing down an Arizona team that is hitting .330 (68-for-206) over its last six games. But the D-backs have also shown a propensity for making miscues on the basepaths in recent games and can't afford to do so against a pitcher with a pedigree like Vogelsong's.
"It gets frustrating, I understand, but at the same time we're an aggressive team, we're going to be aggressive, don't get frustrated by it," said D-backs manager Kirk Gibson. "In the end we hope to tighten it up. ... That's the goal, but in the process guys make mistakes because they're trying things, they're making different reads, they're trying to get impactful bases when we need them. That's the way it goes."
Should Vogelsong keep up his recent performance, though, he won't need any help from the opposition to get the job done. The righty allowed one earned run or none in four straight starts before allowing three earned runs over 6 2/3 innings in his last outing at Miami, and that was still a quality effort.
The Giants are nearing the end of a stretch that sees them play 20 games in 20 days. So far, the team can't complain about the results -- San Francisco is 11-7 in that span. The team plays its second straight game at home Tuesday after a successful 4-3 road trip, punctuated by a win Sunday over the Marlins.
"We'll take it," manager Bruce Bochy said Sunday. "This has been a tough place for us. We got the series in Milwaukee and this was a huge game, I thought. It has been a pretty good road trip."
Giants: Sandoval getting closer to return
Third baseman Pablo Sandoval is still probably at least two weeks away from returning to the Giants' lineup after undergoing surgery on his left hand May 4, but the Venezuela native is making progress. Sandoval took some grounders Monday and has been practicing dry swings from the right side of the plate and soft toss swings from the left side.
"We're encouraged with where he's at," Bochy said. ""We need him back, so hopefully we'll get some good news when he gets looked at [Monday]."
Outfielder Gregor Blanco has been hot in the leadoff spot for San Francisco. He came into Monday's game against Arizona with a .321 batting average over his last 14 games and went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI against the D-backs. He said he's been focusing on hitting low liners, and the approach seems to be paying off.
D-backs: Saunders looks to build momentum
Arizona has won each of the last two starts that left-hander Joe Saunders has made and hopes that trend continues Tuesday. Before those two team wins, Saunders allowed six earned runs in each of his previous two starts. In his last time out, Saunders allowed four runs over 6 1/3 innings in an 11-4 victory over the Dodgers on May 23.
"Joe stepped up huge on the mound for us," Arizona shortstop Willie Bloomquist said. "The fact that we were a little bit beat up in the bullpen, and he stepped up big and gave us some quality innings."
Right-handed reliever Brad Ziegler hasn't allowed a hit or run in his last three appearances after allowing four runs over one combined inning of work in his two games prior to that. He said he's trying to focus only on what he can control.
"There's a lot of aspects of the game that I can't control," Zeigler said. "Whenever I do get the opportunity, just trying to keep the ball down, get ground balls. Our infielders are making a lot of plays for me right now. It makes my job easier when I can trust them."
Gibson turned 55 on Monday but fell to 1-1 all time on his birthday with the loss to the Giants. On May 28 last season, Arizona defeated Houston, 11-3.
Giants left-hander Barry Zito got the win Monday after allowing two earned runs over seven-plus innings. It was the fewest earned runs Zito had allowed in a start lasting at least four innings since he gave up one run in an April 25 loss to Cincinnati.