Giants beat D-backs 3-1, remain 2 up on San Diego
AP Baseball Writer
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The San Francisco Giants have put themselves in the ideal position with four games left: They don’t have to count on anybody’s help to win their division.
It’s in their hands.
Pat Burrell hit a three-run homer to back Tim Lincecum, and the first-place Giants remained two games ahead of San Diego in the NL West with a 3-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday night.
The Padres beat the Chicago Cubs 3-0 at home. San Francisco lowered its magic number to three to clinch the club’s first division title and playoff spot since 2003 – and could secure at least a tie Thursday. The Giants and Padres close the season with a three-game series at AT&T Park starting Friday night.
“Fortunately for us we’re in a position where we don’t really have to rely on anybody else to lose or to win for that matter. We’ve just got to take care of our business and come out here and win every night and we’ll get in,” Burrell said. “We’ve got a chance to sweep tomorrow and I think everybody in here is on the same page. We’ve got to go out there and hopefully get a lead early in the game and give our pitcher a chance to settle in.”
With the Giants trailing 1-0, Burrell connected in the fourth with a drive into the left-field seats off Ian Kennedy (9-10). Those three runs held up.
Lincecum (16-10) struck out 11 in seven innings despite pitching congested and with a cold, the 26th time in his career he’s reached double digits for strikeouts. It was the seventh time this year, which matches Milwaukee’s Yovani Gallardo for most in the NL.
Lincecum had his start moved up a day so he could be available for a potential one-game playoff Monday or on short rest Sunday if it came to that – or just be well rested for Game 1 of the division series.
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself but I will prepare as such,” Lincecum said of opening the playoffs.
The two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner earned his fifth win in his last six outings following a career-worst five-start losing streak.
“I never thought there was any demise at all from him,” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said of the pitcher’s brief funk. “You just don’t look at radar guns. He used to throw 96-97. Now he doesn’t have that anymore. Now he’s up to 91-92. The ball moves. He’s got a great changeup and a very good slider.”
Stephen Drew hit the second pitch of the game for a home run, the first time in Lincecum’s career he has surrendered a home run to start the game. He faced baserunners every inning after that, too, but settled down and found a groove.
Bochy visited the right-hander on the mound to check on how he was feeling in the seventh after he issued a two-out, four-pitch walk to Kelly Johnson. With Lincecum at 110 pitches, the manager left him in. Lincecum then retired Chris Young on a called third strike and his night was done.
He allowed one run on six hits four walks. Javier Lopez struck out two in the eighth and All-Star closer Brian Wilson saved his second straight game. Wilson earned a five-out save in Tuesday’s 4-2 win, then converted his majors-leading 47th save in 52 chances Wednesday.
He had runners at the corners with one out, then struck out Johnson and got Young to ground out. Bochy wasn’t sure whether Wilson would be available Thursday.
After the game, Bochy said Matt Cain will go Friday night against the Padres, Barry Zito on Saturday and Jonathan Sanchez on Sunday. Bochy isn’t thinking too far ahead.
“That’s the last thing on my mind right now,” Bochy said of the postseason. “We’ve got four big games ahead of us.”
Burrell’s homer was his 20th of the year and 18th since joining the Giants on a minor league deal May 29, seven of those with San Francisco putting his team ahead.
He likes playing big games that count down the stretch.
“It’s the same excitement that keeps you coming out,” Burrell said. “To be in those situations, there’s nothing else like it. To come through is great, but just to have the opportunity to be out there with the crowd it’s the best feeling.”
Struggling Giants slugger Pablo Sandoval earned a third straight start after getting two hits with a double in Tuesday’s 4-2 win. He had a fourth-inning single, only his 11th hit in his last 60 at-bats.
Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez was given another day by Bochy to rest his strained right shoulder. Mike Fontenot started in his place for the second straight game.
NOTES: Wilson needs one save to tie Rod Beck’s record of 48 set in 1993. … Arizona’s Brandon Webb pitched a scoreless, 20-pitch inning at in instructional league. He allowed a triple. The former NL Cy Young Award winner hasn’t pitched in a game since the opener of the 2009 season because of shoulder problems. He underwent surgery last August and the Diamondbacks picked up the $8.5 million option for the final year of his contract in hopes he would be ready for the 2010 season. … D-backs 3B Mark Reynolds drew a pinch-hit walk in the ninth but missed his fourth straight start with a sore thumb. He might play in Thursday afternoon’s series finale. … The Giants lead the season series 12-5, going 6-2 at home.