The San Francisco Giants are set to face their second straight overmatched opponent.
Based on the difficulty they had sweeping baseball's worst team, the NL West-leading Giants are unlikely to overlook Chicago in Friday's opener - especially after the resilience the Cubs displayed in their last game.
San Francisco (74-57) arrives in Chicago with a season-high 4 1/2-game lead over Los Angeles in the division after beating Houston 8-4 on Thursday. Nothing came easy against the Astros for the Giants, who rallied in the ninth in the opener, nearly coughed up a four-run lead in the middle game and overcame a 4-0 deficit in the finale.
"We kept the energy up just enough to get three wins," said Brandon Belt , who went 4 for 5 with two doubles and an RBI on Thursday, "and hopefully we can keep it going."
The Giants also had trouble putting away the Cubs, owner of the majors' second-worst record, in early June at AT&T Park, though they managed to win all four games. San Francisco outscored Chicago 11-6, winning three times by one run.
Madison Bumgarner (14-8, 2.93 ERA) set the tone for that series, allowing two runs while striking out 11 in eight innings of a 4-3 win on June 1. He is 3-1 with a 1.55 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 29 innings in his last four starts against the Cubs (50-80).
Bumgarner takes the ball after allowing four runs, seven hits and a season-high tying four walks in 6 1-3 innings of Saturday's 7-3 loss to Atlanta. The left-hander had a 1.93 ERA in his previous eight starts."It happens throughout the course of a season that you get out of whack," Bumgarner said. "That was the first time all season I wasn't able to get it back."
Although he hasn't had much trouble against Chicago, he'll have to be careful facing Starlin Castro , who is 7 for 16 against Bumgarner - his best average against any pitcher he's faced that many times.
The Cubs have lost 22 of 29, but enter this series in good spirits after rallying to beat Milwaukee 12-11 on Thursday to salvage the finale of a four-game series. Chicago trailed by six and capped a three-run ninth inning with Alfonso Soriano 's one-out RBI single.
The Cubs, who had averaged 2.9 runs in their previous eight games, finished with eight extra-base hits and a season-high 11 walks, and hope this outburst is a sign of things to come.
"I think it will help the offense and the clubhouse because we came back," Soriano told the Cubs' official website. "It was a big game for us to win that game."
Chris Volstad (1-9, 6.28) is also hoping he can build on his latest outing.
Volstad allowed three hits and three walks in 6 2-3 innings of Sunday's 5-0 win over Colorado, snapping a 24-start winless streak for his first victory since helping Florida beat Houston on July 10, 2011.
This will be the right-hander's first outing of the season versus the Giants, against whom he is 1-2 with a 2.67 ERA in four career starts.
Angel Pagan , San Francisco's hottest hitter with a .393 average in his last 13 games, is 1 for 13 lifetime against Volstad.
Hunter Pence has also been locked in, batting .467 with five RBIs in his last four games, and is 7 for 18 lifetime against Volstad.
|San Francisco Giants|
|August 29, 2012||Clay Hensley||15-Day DL||Strained right groin|
|August 23, 2012||Justin Christian||15-Day DL||Sprained left wrist|
|August 22, 2012||Buster Posey||Day-to-Day||Hamstring tightness|
|August 14, 2012||Brad Penny||15-Day DL||Right shoulder impingement|
|August 07, 2012||Shane Loux||15-Day DL||Recurring neck strain|
|July 31, 2012||Aubrey Huff||15-Day DL||Strained right knee|
|July 28, 2012||Matt Garza||60-Day DL||Stress reaction, right elbow|
|July 21, 2012||Matt Garza||Day-to-Day||Left game - right triceps cramp|
|June 16, 2012||Ryan Dempster||15-Day DL||Right lat tightness|
|June 13, 2012||Ian Stewart||60-Day DL||Left wrist surgery|
|June 02, 2012||Blake Parker||60-Day DL||Stress reaction in right elbow|
|June 02, 2012||Blake Parker||60-Day DL||Stress reaction in right elbow|
CHICAGO (AP) -- While Buster Posey and the San Francisco Giants are fighting for the NL West title, Anthony Rizzo and the Chicago Cubs have their own magic number.
Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run homer that landed on Waveland Avenue and Rizzo added a solo shot, helping Chris Volstad and the Cubs beat the weary Giants 6-4 on Friday.
Soriano also had a two-out RBI single in the first as Chicago (51-80) closed out a miserable August with a second consecutive win. The Cubs, practically locked into fifth place in the NL Central, are hoping to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1966.
"I know it's something that I don't want to be a part of," Rizzo said. "I think the magic number's down to 12 wins now. I was talking about it today. We're not going to lose 100 games. It's something we're all motivated not to do."
Posey went 3 for 3 with two RBIs for San Francisco, which had won a season-high six consecutive road games. Pablo Sandoval had a sacrifice fly and Hunter Pence drove in a run with a groundout.
The Giants rallied for an 8-4 victory in Houston on Thursday night, then arrived in Chicago around 3 a.m. They mostly stayed in the visitors' clubhouse while the Cubs took batting practice, but they looked listless for much of the muggy afternoon at Wrigley Field.
"You play indoors in AC, come in at 3, 3:30 in the morning," manager Bruce Bochy said. "And it's not just the heat, it's how humid it is out there. It's a tough day. Guys were battling back. Fighting back and get the tying run up there. Just couldn't quite get it done."
It was still quite a month for San Francisco, which went 18-11 in August to increase its division lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers . It was the most victories for the Giants in a single month since they had 18 in September 2010, and they went on to win the World Series that year.
Volstad (2-9) allowed two runs and five hits in 5 2-3 innings for his second consecutive victory after a 24-start winless streak. The 6-foot-8 right-hander pitched into the seventh against Colorado on Sunday for his first win since July 10, 2011, for the Marlins against Houston.
"I felt pretty good today starting out, but the weather kinda took a little bit on me as the game kept going on," Volstad said. "I think it really did help my sinker though, as it was down and it was moving."
Madison Bumgarner (14-9) won three of his first four August starts for San Francisco, but ended up dropping his last two after another ineffective outing against Chicago.
The left-hander retired the first two batters in the third before the Cubs strung together four consecutive hits to build a 5-0 lead. Rizzo got it started with a single to center and Soriano followed with a drive to left on an 0-2 pitch for his 24th homer. Starlin Castro then singled and scored all the way from first on Welington Castillo 's double to the gap in left-center.
Castillo moved to third on the throw home and headed for the plate when the ball got away from Posey.
"I didn't have it great. It didn't really stick in my pocket," Posey said. "When I went to tag, he knocked it out."
Bumgarner was late backing up home and his high return throw went off the All-Star catcher's glove, allowing Castillo to score easily.
"I was being stubborn with myself and it cost us another run," Bumgarner said. "You never want to do that."
Rizzo added his 10th homer in the fifth, a drive to left-center that skipped off the basket and caromed back onto the field. The big first baseman hustled into third, but the drive was eventually changed to a home run after a short replay review.
Carlos Marmol worked the ninth for his 17th save in 19 chances. The right-hander has converted 16 straight save opportunities.
"Bullpen did a nice job, getting some tough outs there when he had to get them," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
Soriano, who turned down a trade to San Francisco earlier this season, went 2 for 4 for the Cubs, who finished August with an 8-21 record. He also had a game-ending RBI single in Thursday's dramatic 12-11 victory over the Milwaukee.
"It's very hard, playing the West Coast, especially in that field," Soriano said, referring to the vetoed deal with the Giants. "It's not the team. They have a very good team, but I think it's more the city, because the weather."
NOTES: Posey will start at first base on Saturday. Bochy said before the game he would get a day off this weekend. ... The Cubs recalled reliever Jeff Beliveau from Triple-A Iowa and sent fellow LHP Brooks Raley to the minors. They also announced they will recall OFs Tony Campana and Dave Sappelt and INF Adrian Cardenas when major league rosters expand on Saturday. Raley's season is over, and LHP Chris Rusin will be recalled on Tuesday to start at Washington. RHP Miguel Socolovich , who was claimed off waivers from Baltimore on Aug. 23, will be added to the active roster on Sunday. Backup C Anthony Recker , who was acquired in a trade with Oakland, is expected to join the team on Tuesday. ... RHP Tim Lincecum (7-14, 5.30 ERA) starts for San Francisco on Saturday against RHP Justin Germano (2-4, 5.91 ERA). Lincecum is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in four career starts at Wrigley Field.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap