The Arizona Diamondbacks may have entered the All-Star break atop the NL West, but they still think they can do better.
The San Francisco Giants surely feel the same way about their disappointing first half.
The Diamondbacks emerge from the break Friday night looking to drop the Giants further out of the division race, while San Francisco tries to tighten it.
Arizona (50-45) leads the West by 2 1/2 games on second-place Los Angeles, while Colorado is 4 1/2 back in third with San Francisco trailing by 6 1/2. The Diamondbacks' slight lead comes despite having lost 10 of 13 on the road and going 21-22 within the division, with losses in nine of the past 14.
"We've had our ups and downs, but I don't think we've played our best baseball yet," All-Star pitcher Patrick Corbin told the team's official website. "I think we're just going to get better and better as the season goes on."
They may need to with San Francisco (43-51) aiming to build on winning three of four over San Diego prior to the break, including Saturday's no-hitter from Tim Lincecum . The Giants also hit .307 with 24 runs over that stretch after mustering an average of 2.3 while batting .214 during a 3-16 funk.
"We know where we're at, and what has to happen in the second half, and that's us getting more consistent in all facets of the game," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "This thing's not going to happen right away as far as getting right back to where you want to be. It's a gradual thing, and that happens by playing good baseball."
Arizona, though, isn't fooled by the Giants' struggles.
"This is the team that's won two out of the last three World Series. They're still the king of the hill in this division," Diamondbacks infielder Cliff Pennington said. "You start here after the All-Star break kind of refreshed and ready to go. To play a good team right off the bat is what you want. Every division series is big.
"They're the top dog in this division. You've got to knock them off the hill. Just being ahead of them after the first half doesn't knock the team that won the World Series two out of the last three years out of it."
Improvement from Ian Kennedy (3-6, 5.42 ERA) would certainly help. The right-hander owns the staff's highest ERA, and he's 0-3 with a 6.58 ERA in seven starts since beating the Chicago Cubs on June 1.
Kennedy, though, is 5-0 with a 2.44 ERA in 10 starts against the Giants since 2011, going 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA in six games at San Francisco.
Paul Goldschmidt , the Diamondbacks' other All-Star, has also thrived there. The first baseman has a .349 average with five homers, 17 RBIs and 13 walks in 18 career visits.
Gaudin's impressive stretch includes a 6-2 win at Arizona on June 9, when he allowed two runs with seven strikeouts in six innings.
He's held Goldschmidt hitless in four at-bats, while fanning him twice.
Buster Posey entered the break going 14 for 29 (.483) with eight RBIs in seven games. The All-Star catcher is 9 for 24 (.375) in his career versus Kennedy.
|July 09, 2013||Eric Chavez||Day-to-Day||Stiff right hip|
|July 01, 2013||Trevor Cahill||15-Day DL||Right hip contusion|
|June 28, 2013||Willie Bloomquist||15-Day DL||Left hand contusion|
|June 10, 2013||Matt Reynolds||15-Day DL||Strained left elbow|
|May 31, 2013||Brandon McCarthy||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|May 31, 2013||Eric Chavez||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|San Francisco Giants|
|July 09, 2013||Hector Sanchez||15-Day DL||Strained right shoulder|
|July 08, 2013||Joaquin Arias||15-Day DL||Appendicitis|
|July 05, 2013||Andres Torres||Day-to-Day||Left game - right calf cramp|
|June 24, 2013||Joaquin Arias||Day-to-Day||Hamstring|
|June 21, 2013||Chad Gaudin||15-Day DL||Right elbow contusion|
|June 21, 2013||Chad Gaudin||15-Day DL||Right elbow contusion|
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Chad Gaudin might just be pitching himself right into a permanent spot in the San Francisco starting rotation.
He certainly pitched the defending World Series champion Giants to an important victory to begin the season's second half against the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks , striking out eight in seven scoreless innings to build on his impressive monthlong stretch in a 2-0 win Friday night.
"It's huge," Gaudin said. "Any win in our division is huge."
All-Star Buster Posey hit an RBI double, Hunter Pence added a run-scoring single as San Francisco started a key series to open the second half by pulling within 5 1/2 games of the D-backs in the NL West race.
Arizona starter Ian Kennedy (3-7) was denied career win No. 50 yet again in his eighth try.
In his past four starts, Gaudin (4-1) has a 0.77 ERA, two earned runs in 23 1-3 innings. He has an 11-inning scoreless streak.
"What a great job he did tonight, which we needed," manager Bruce Bochy said.
Gaudin is unbeaten in seven starts since joining the rotation in early June to replace the injured Ryan Vogelsong - and he is making for a tough decision by the Giants' brass when Vogelsong is ready to return next month.
"Obviously I'd like to start and enjoy starting," said Gaudin, so valuable for his versatility.
Not bad for a guy who signed a minor league deal with the Giants and had no guarantee of making the team out of spring training.
"I signed over here to do what I'm doing now," Gaudin said. "It's great. I've put a lot of time and effort and work into having a good craft and pretty much dedicated myself to getting better and staying consistent. It's kind of surprising, but at the same time I kind of expect it out of myself."
Gaudin's only loss came in relief during an extra-inning loss April 24 against Arizona at home.
Gaudin also got a defensive gem from Giants rookie Kensuke Tanaka . The converted infielder made a sliding catch near the foul line in left field, reaching back over his head after overrunning the play to rob Paul Goldschmidt leading off the fourth. Gaudin tipped his cap to the outfielder.
The Giants are determined to put some steady play together - and Gaudin's stellar outing was a start. The club began a key stretch with 10 games at home in AT&T Park, including Tuesday's doubleheader with the Reds in which Cincinnati is the home team in the opener to make up a July 4 rainout in Ohio.
Gaudin allowed three hits and didn't walk a batter for the second time in his seven starts.
"Everything he does for us, it's a big lift," closer Sergio Romo said.
Romo, the Giants' fifth reliever, finished the five-hitter for his 22nd save and San Francisco's 10th shutout. Arizona was blanked for just the second time after losing 3-0 to Atlanta on June 28.
"We had no offense going on at all tonight. They just shut us down," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said.
Santiago Casilla escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth. Romo has a 29-game scoreless streak against the D-backs spanning 21 2-3 innings and dating to Sept. 6, 2010.
Kennedy lost his third straight during an eight-start winless streak in which he went 0-3 since beating the Cubs on June 1 in Chicago.
"You just try to be positive. Like, `Just get that out of the way,"' Kennedy said. "Just keep going out there, grind away, find adjustments to do. That's what I really tried to do."
He even shaved his beard during the All-Star break to try to get on track.
The right-hander said he had a professional barber give him the trim Monday, his first in 26 months since his daughter, Nora, was born in late April 2011.
"I needed a change," he said.
But Arizona lost its sixth straight second-half opener.
Notes: D-backs RHP Brandon McCarthy is scheduled to pitch a rehab start Sunday for Triple-A Reno and likely one more after that before being re-evaluated. He collapsed at a Phoenix restaurant last month with a seizure related to the head injury he sustained while pitching last September. ... Giants RHP Ryan Vogelsong , who had surgery May 21 a day after breaking two bones in the pinkie area of his pitching hand, will face live hitters for the first time Saturday and could begin a rehab assignment early next week probably beginning with Class A San Jose before going to Double-A Richmond during the team's next road trip out East. ... San Francisco INF Joaquin Arias isn't likely to come off the DL on Tuesday when eligible as he returns from an emergency appendectomy. ... Giants CF Angel Pagan has begun baseball activities and agility work in Arizona as he tries to work back before season's end from left hamstring surgery. ... Giants Hall of Fame broadcaster Lon Simmons celebrated his 90th birthday and threw out the ceremonial first pitch to a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 41,924. "It always has surprised me," Simmons said of the support. ... All-Star fathers: Giants Jeff Francoeur and Sandy Rosario each welcomed baby girls during the break, Emma Francoeur on Monday in Atlanta and Saadet Rosario on Thursday in New Jersey.