Photo by Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
When two arch division rivals are playing meaningful September baseball, it makes for plenty of exciting series late in the summer.
The D-backs and Giants have been locked in a compelling battle for the division crown since late May. Arizona holds a six-game lead with six games to play in the regular season. With the magic number at one, San Francisco comes to the Valley of the Sun for a three-game series.
The last six games between the two teams have taken place at AT&T Park in San Francisco. The D-backs kicked off August by claiming two out of three before beginning September with a series win in the City by the Bay.
It’s matchups like these that often determine a team’s playoff future.
“The schedules always seem to work out that way,” manager Kirk Gibson said. “It seems like everybody has a chance to meet up with the people that have the biggest impact on their destiny.”
The D-backs approach their final six games of the regular season with a 90-66 record. Arizona is 12-7 in September after finishing August with a red-hot 19-10 mark.
Despite the recent success against the Giants, Gibson realizes that they are a bit different since the rivals last met.
“The way our schedule set up at the end of this month, we were really so much in our division,” Gibson said. “We played better against them, but this is a different team. It’s quite different. Their lineups are different. They’ve got (Brian) Wilson back now. Things changed a lot since the last time we’ve seen them.”
D-backs shuffle rotation for Giants series
The D-backs altered their scheduled rotation prior to Friday’s series opener against the Giants. Left-hander Joe Saunders is slated to start Friday, while Ian Kennedy will take the mound Saturday and Josh Collmenter will close out the weekend on Sunday.
Saunders enters his 32nd start of the season with a 12-12 record and solid 3.66 ERA.
“We thought it through,” Gibson said. “We had three different scenarios. There are different reasons for doing different things. One of the things we wanted to (do was) give Collmenter extra time, (which) kept Ian on turn. We’ve had a lot of discussion on it. That’s the quick list. We had several scenarios. That’s the scenario we decided to go with.”
D-backs to face talented Cain in opener
Giants right-hander Matt Cain has quietly emerged as one of baseball’s most talented starters over the past few seasons.
In 2011, he owns a 12-10 mark with a sharp 2.86 ERA through 32 starts. Cain has struck out 173 batters in 214.1 innings pitched.
For the D-backs, it won’t be easy stepping into the batter’s box.
“We’ve seen him a fair amount of the years,” Gibson said. “The guy is one heck of a competitor. You never know what you’re going to get. It’s not going to be anything easy. We’re going to have to play a good game to stay even with them and capitalize on any mistakes that he or they may make.
“You’ve got to compete against guys like Matt Cain. He’s proven. Last year, down the stretch and in the postseason, him and Lincecum were both outstanding. I like our position, but we’re still grinding.”