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Preview: Diamondbacks at Giants

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The San Francisco Giants are set to begin a critical nine-game homestand, where they've lost eight of their last 10 contests heading into Friday’s series opener against the National League West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks. The Giants entered the All-Star break on a high note after taking three of four in San Diego, but they still trail the Diamondbacks by 6 1/2 games. Reigning NL MVP Buster Posey has picked up where he left off last season, hitting .325 with 13 homers and 56 RBIs.

Arizona holds a 2 1/2-game lead over second-place Los Angeles after posting 50 victories before the All-Star break for the fifth time in franchise history. Third baseman Martin Prado and catcher Miguel Montero are eager to put their poor starts behind them, and center fielder Adam Eaton could be a key factor in the division race after missing most of the first half with a strained elbow. The team’s biggest concern is its bullpen, where J.J. Putz, David Hernandez and Heath Bell have struggled at times.

TV: 10:15 p.m. ET, FSN Arizona, NBC Bay Area (San Francisco)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Diamondbacks RH Ian Kennedy (3-6, 5.42 ERA) vs. Giants RH Chad Gaudin (3-1, 2.39)

The All-Star break came at a good time for Kennedy, who hasn’t won since June 1 and is 0-3 with a 6.58 ERA over his past seven starts. “He can throw the ball better; I know it, and he knows it, so we'll work on that,” Arizona manager Kirk Gibson told reporters. Marco Scutaro is 7-for-16 against Kennedy, who allowed four runs over seven innings in a no-decision against the Giants on April 29.

Gaudin has made a strong case to remain in the rotation even after Ryan Vogelsong (hand) returns next month. The 30-year-old is 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA in his six starts this season, and he’s allowed a total of two runs over his last three starts covering 16 1/3 innings. Jason Kubel is 9-for-13 with two homers against Gaudin, who yielded two runs over six frames against Arizona on June 9.

WALK-OFFS

1. Arizona has lost five of its last six games against the Giants.

2. Giants manager Bruce Bochy is three wins away from 1,500 in his career.

3. The Diamondbacks have recorded an extra-base hit in a major league-high 79 straight games.

PREDICTION: Giants 5, Diamondbacks 4

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/thomson-reuters/130719/preview-diamondbacks-at-giants