The San Francisco Giants have squeezed out close wins in back-to-back games and look to make it easier on themselves when they shoot for a sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays Wednesday afternoon at AT&T Park.
The Giants took the opener of this two-game set by a 2-1 score, as Andres Torres' two-run homer in the second inning stood as the game-winning hit and Tim Lincecum put together seven innings of one-run ball on the mound. He struck out six batters and issued just three hits and one walk.
"Working my fastball to both sides of the plate, that was the biggest thing today," Lincecum said. "It opened up my secondary pitches. I expanded the zone and tried to stay aggressive."
Lincecum had dropped his previous three starts.
Jeremy Affeldt worked around a hit during a scoreless eighth inning and Sergio Romo did the same in the ninth for his 16th save. Gregor Blanco had a team- high two hits for the Giants, who were coming off Sunday's 4-2 win over St. Louis and have prevailed in consecutive games since dropping two in a row and five of six.
The defending World Series champion Giants are still two games behind Arizona for the NL West lead and will start a nine-game road trip Friday against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field.
Giants catcher Buster Posey finished 1-for-4 on Tuesday and is the leading vote-getter in NL All-Star balloting. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval also leads the Senior Circuit in votes at his position and was back in action Tuesday after missing the weekend series against the Cardinals with a strained left foot. Sandoval was 0-for-3 versus the Blue Jays.
Giants veteran starter Barry Zito was able to halt a personal winless streak his last time out and looks to build on a strong performance Wednesday versus the Jays. Zito was 0-2 with a 4.64 earned run average in six starts before holding Oakland to a run and three hits in six innings of Thursday's 5-2 win.
Zito had given up 14 runs in his previous three starts and managed to defeat the Athletics despite having six walks to five strikeouts. The left-hander and 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner was rocked at Toronto on May 14 in a 10-6 loss and yielded eight runs -- five earned -- and 12 hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Zito, who is 4-0 in seven home starts this season, has a 5-4 mark to go along with a 3.82 ERA in 12 career starts against the Blue Jays. The Giants are 7-0 when Zito toes the rubber at AT&T Park this season.
The Blue Jays wasted a solid effort in the return of starting pitcher Josh Johnson, who was in action Tuesday for the first time since April 21 because of a biceps injury. Johnson allowed two runs -- one earned -- and six hits in seven frames against the Giants, struck out six and did not walk a batter.
Johnson surrendered a crucial homer to Torres early on.
"If he hits it out there, you have to tip your cap to him," Johnson said of Torres' homer that cleared the wall in center field. "That's a pretty deep part of the ballpark."
Johnson, though, said he felt good to get back to work despite the loss.
"It felt good to be out there and to go to battle with these guys," he said. "Unfortunately I made a couple of mistakes I can't take back but they were huge."
Toronto, which has lost four of five games, got on the board first thanks to Edwin Encarnacion's solo home run in the first inning. Encarnacion has homered in back-to-back games and has three in the past four.
Former Giants All-Star outfielder Melky Cabrera was back in the bay area for the first time and finished 2-for-4 at the plate. Cabrera, of course, was suspended last season for violating the league's substance abuse policy and has been recently linked to a Florida clinic for performance-enhancing supplements. Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz and Alex Rodriguez have also been included in the report on the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic.
In other Toronto news, shortstop Jose Reyes, who hasn't played since April 12, is coming along in his recovery with a left ankle injury. According to the club's website, Reyes has been traveling with the team and performing daily strengthening drills. He is expected to begin a rehab assignment in a couple of weeks.
"It's close, not that far away," Reyes told the team's site Tuesday. "The biggest thing is to be able to go out and run the bases on back-to-back days and go from there. If I'm able to do that, even if I'm not 100 percent I feel like I can help this ballclub.
"Even at 85 to 90 percent, I'm going to be on the field and I'll go to do my assignment and get back here as soon as possible."
After the Jays wrap up this quick set in San Francisco, they will return to Rogers Centre for a three-game weekend set versus the Texas Rangers.
Meanwhile, it has been a rough two starts for Jays starter R.A. Dickey and he will take the mound Wednesday afternoon in hopes of turning his season around. Dickey has allowed six runs in each of his last two outings, going 0-2 with an 8.53 earned run average in that time, and is only 2-5 in his past seven decisions.
Dickey was hammered at Atlanta on Thursday and gave up six runs and 11 hits in six innings of an 11-3 setback.
"It hurts, because I felt like I was missing barrels today," Dickey said. "I might have given up four hard-hit balls all night. It was just tough. It seemed like every ball off their bat would find a hole somewhere or a little space in the outfield."
The knuckleballer is 4-7 with a 5.18 ERA in 12 starts and has pitched at least six innings in 11 of those. Dickey, who is 1-3 in five road starts, defeated San Francisco on May 14, when he struck out a season-high 10 batters over six innings of two-run ball in a 10-6 win. The right-hander and reigning NL Cy Young Award winner is 1-1 with a 3.81 ERA in four career starts against the Giants.
San Francisco lost both of its meetings in Toronto from May 14-15 and is just 2-5 in the past seven matchups between the teams. The Giants were outscored, 21-9, in those two games north of the border.