It's a race in the National League West, as the Arizona Diamondbacks -- after winning two of three against the Dodgers over the weekend -- play the division-leading San Francisco Giants by the bay tonight through Wednesday.
And they'll be doing it with a new starting pitcher in the rotation, Jason Marquis, who's proven to be a Giants killer during his career. He was acquired before the MLB trading deadline at the end of July. (More on this and another Arizona trade for a pitcher below.)
While the Diamondbacks were handling Los Angeles at Chavez Ravine, the Giants were getting swept by the Cincinnati Reds, cutting their division lead to two over Arizona. The Reds decimated the Giants 9-0 yesterday. (San Francisco's new hitting saviour, Carlos Beltran? Two for 17 in a Giants' uniform.)
It didn't look like things would come up smelling like a possible takeover of first place for the D-Backs Friday night, when the Dodgers lit them up 9-5. But manager Kirk Gibson's team came from behind on Saturday night to beat the Dodgers 6-4
A red-hot Justin Upton sparked the comeback with a hit to right field that ignited a five-run sixth inning. By the time yesterday's 6-3 victory over the Dodgers was complete, Upton's hitting streak had extended to 12 games.
But the Diamondbacks right fielder, who bats third and is hitting .304, had little to do with Sunday's win. The big hitters in the contest were the sixth and seventh men in the order, third baseman Ryan Roberts and left fielder Gerardo Parra. Both homered in the second inning, and Parra added another round-tripper in the eighth..
After pitching a complete game in a win over the San Diego Padres last week, starting pitcher Joe Saunders was pulled by Gibson in the eighth yesterday after he gave up a hit by Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier, who was the only Dodger with Saunders' number, tapping him for four singles.
Pulling Saunders turned out to be a bad move, when the Dodgers scored one run in the eighth inning and another in the ninth off the D-Backs bullpen before closer J.J. Putz sealed the deal.
Saunders gave up eight hits and two runs, while striking out three in the game, which should cement his spot in the starting rotation. Arizona acquired veteran starting pitcher Marquis on Saturday from the Washington Nationals for minor league shortstop Zach Walters, and somebody will have to drop out of the five-man rotation. If it were up to us, we would demote Micah Owings, who was pulled Saturday after givng up four runs to L.A. in the third and fourth innings.
Marquis, 32, has been dominant over the Giants -- which's why he's scheduled to start in the third game of the upcoming series Wednesday. Normally, a new starting pitcher would be given a while to adjust to a different system. He's 5-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 11 starts against S.F. He's been especially efficient at the Giants' AT&T Park: 4-2, 2.61 ERA.
The Snakes also acquired relief pitcher Brad Ziegler (2.49 ERA over his four-year career) from the Oakland A's for reliever Jordan Norberto and.first baseman Brandon Allen, who occasionally had given Arizona crucial offense this season.
The fun begins at 7 p.m. tonight in San Francisco. TV: Fox Sports Net. Matt Cain (9-6, 2.91 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Giants, and Ian Kennedy (12-3, 3.22 ERA) will take the mound for the D-Backs. More information at www.diamondbacks.com.