Giants take aim at fifth straight win in Chicago

The reigning World Series champion San Francisco Giants will look to maintain their lead in the National League West on Friday afternoon when they take on the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

The Giants opened the four-game series with a 7-6 win over Chicago on Thursday, as they overcame a 5-0 deficit to notch their fourth straight victory. It marked the first time since Sept. 7, 2008 against Pittsburgh that San Francisco came back to win a game after trailing by five or more runs.

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval drove in two runs with a fourth-inning double and is batting .333 with eight RBI in the early going. Leadoff man Angel Pagan, who is hitting .350, also plated a pair of runs and added a dazzling catch in deep center field.

"We have to either protect the lead or we have to go get the lead," Pagan said.

Chicago led 5-0 after three innings but gave up a combined seven runs in the fourth and fifth. Sloppy defense contributed to the change in momentum.

"You spend hours and hours (on defense) for 45 days of spring training," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said, "and to have the lapses in the games when it counts, it costs you games. It costs you pitches, it costs you not being able to go five innings."

The Cubs had the tying run on second base twice in the eighth inning, but they were never able to get that run home.

Heading to the hill for Chicago on Friday will be Carlos Villanueva, who took a no-decision at Atlanta last Saturday after giving up just one run in 6 2/3 innings, makes his first home start for the Cubs on Friday. The right-hander struck out six and walked two while allowing six hits against the Braves.

San Francisco will hope for a rebound outing from starter Matt Cain. After tossing six shutout innings at Dodger Stadium in the season opener, Cain was tagged for nine runs on seven hits in just 3 2/3 innings of work against St. Louis this past Sunday.

However, it has been all smooth sailing at the back end of games for the Giants. Closer Sergio Romo has notched a Major League-best six saves in as many tries, having retired 18 of 20 batters faced with 10 strikeouts.

"It's a nice little carryover from last season, I'd say, for sure," Romo said. "The mentality of playing together and trying to play your part. If everyone does his part and plays his role to his capabilities, we should be in pretty decent position to win ballgames."

San Francisco has won eight of the last nine head-to-head meetings.