Zito tries to rebound with sweep of Padres

The San Francisco Giants hadn't tasted defeat in a game Barry Zito started in eight months before the veteran was hammered in his most recent outing.

Zito takes the mound on Sunday afternoon for the first time since his 11- decision winning streak was snapped as he pitches the finale of a three-game set with the San Diego Padres with a chance to notch a sweep of the series.

The 34-year-old Zito had won 11 straight decisions including the playoffs since a loss to the New York Mets last Aug. 2. That run spanned 16 starts and the Giants won each game.

Zito kept his streak going this year by pitching scoreless seven-inning outings over his first two starts, but was hammered for nine runs on eight hits and two walks over 2 2/3 innings of a 10-8 loss at Milwaukee on Tuesday. One of the two homers he allowed was a grand slam off the bat of Yuniesky Betancourt during an eight-run third inning for the Brewers.

"Baseball is kind of a strange game," said Zito. "I felt better in this game that I did in the first two games. They hit my pitches tonight, so I have to tip my hat to them."

The lefty saw his earned run average jump to 4.86 on the season and he is 4-9 lifetime versus the Padres with a 4.80 ERA in 21 games (20 starts).

Not only will Zito need to keep pace with San Diego starter Eric Stults this afternoon, but he'll also need to keep an eye on the fellow veteran at the plate.

Stults comes into today's start 2-1 with a 3.94 ERA in three outings this season, having split two starts versus the rival Los Angeles Dodgers.

After losing at home to the club on April 10, allowing four runs over five innings, Stults rebounded to earn a victory in Los Angeles on Monday. The 32- year-old southpaw yielded three runs on nine hits and a walk over six innings of a 6-3 decision, helping his own cause with a three-run homer.

"It felt good," Stults said of his homer, which he hit in the second inning off the Dodgers' Chad Billingsley. "My power zone is opposite field. I just tried to put a good swing on the ball."

Stults is 4-2 with a 4.73 ERA in 11 lifetime meetings with the Giants, including nine starts.

San Francisco aims for its first three-game sweep of San Diego since Sept. 12-14, 2011 after a vintage Tim Lincecum dominated the Padres in a 2-0 victory on Saturday.

Lincecum came into the start with a 5.63 ERA, but scattered four hits and struck out eight over 6 2/3 scoreless innings. Sergio Romo twirled a perfect ninth inning for his eighth save of the season.

"It is difficult. The ball comes out of (Lincecum's) hand and it looks like a strike, but then just doesn't get there. You have to be ready to hit, but tonight he was on," Padres manager Bud Black said.

The Giants needed Lincecum and their bullpen to be solid as the only offense they managed was Pablo Sandoval's two-run homer in the fourth inning. Still, San Francisco is in position for a third straight win after getting swept in three games by the Milwaukee Brewers before this set.

With Clayton Richard a late scratch due to flu-like symptoms, Andrew Cashner made the emergency start and yielded just two hits and fanned five in four innings.

Everth Cabrera had two hits for the Padres, who have dropped two straight and seven of their last 10 games.

The Giants have taken the season series against San Diego in each of the last two years, winning 12 of 18 meetings both times.