The Padres will attempt to wrap-up their 10-game homestand Sunday on a positive note, as left-handed pitcher Robbie Erlin will try to follow in the immense footsteps of what other starters in the rotation have done when he faces the Giants.
This homestand has already seen gems by Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy and Tyson Ross. Can Erlin replicate that kind of success and do so just one night after the Giants saw another left-handed pitcher, Eric Stults?
Manager Bud Black was asked if it would surprise him that the starting pitchers in the rotation have a strong bond or something more than that, motivating each other to pitch well so they measure up to what their teammates have done.
"I think on most teams there's a starting pitcher bond," Black said. "And there might be a competitive thing going on with these guys."
Erlin, the No. 5 starter in the rotation, has a 3.38 ERA as a starter this season. He has allowed three or fewer runs in each start and has shown great command and a much-improved changeup. He has 13 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings with one walk.
Erlin started fast in his last outing against the Rockies, but faded in the middle innings.
"The second time through the lineup, I could feel myself trying to do too much," Erlin said. "My game is commanding the fastball, and it was pretty evident that I lost command of the fastball. It was tough after that."
The Giants will counter with Tim Lincecum, whose velocity has diminished, though his strikeout potential hasn't.
Lincecum has undergone a transition from emphasizing power to precision. Formerly one of the National League's hardest throwers when he won Cy Young Awards in 2008-09, Lincecum has learned to pitch to spots, rely on movement and vary his deliveries, now that reaching 95 mph with his fastball is a thing of the past.
"I've been able to buy into the changes I needed to make, not being resistant to them, and accepting of the process," Lincecum said.
But don't start thinking that Lincecum has become a nibbler, content to search for corners of the plate with offspeed pitches. He's still a strikeout pitcher, and he continues to challenge hitters. His methods may be different, but the results are the same. Proof: Lincecum has totaled 17 strikeouts and only one walk in 15 innings this year.
"I'm just staying aggressive in the zone," Lincecum said. "I think I'm trying to attack the zone a little more and guys are being aggressive off me, so I'm trying to work off that a little more."
Lincecum would be well-advised to maintain the approach he used against the Padres last year. The right-hander finished 3-1 with a 2.22 ERA in four starts against the Padres, including a 148-pitch no-hitter at Petco Park last July 13.
Giants: Morse's role expanding
Manager Bruce Bochy said he would have to use position players differently with a sparse four-man bench. That definitely has been the case, with the prime example being left fielder Michael Morse.
Morse has started three games since the Giants activated left-hander Jeremy Affeldt from the disabled list last Wednesday, which left the bench short. Morse has played two full games and left the 12-inning marathon against the Dodgers on Tuesday in the ninth. In the 13 games Morse started before Affeldt returned, he played three complete games, but left five others in the sixth inning or earlier.
"Morse will stay in games longer," Bochy said.
Padres: Rivera a 'catch' behind plate
The Padres have certainly liked what they've seen so far from backup catcher Rene Rivera, who is developing a very strong relationship and bond with pitchers on the staff. Guys trust him and want to throw to him.
Rivera has a 1.07 catchers ERA in 59 innings thus far in seven games, which is by far the best mark in the Major Leagues among catchers with 50 or more innings.
What is it about Rivera that pitchers like?
"He really works for the pitchers, you know he's doing everything he can to help you. From a pitchers' standpoint, you get a comfortable level from that, you know it's you two vs. the opposition," said Padres starting pitcher Robbie Erlin. "He calls a good game, too.
"You know that he's doing everything he can for you, getting you to throw that right pitch, helping you execute it and just making you comfortable so you can do the best job possible."
• Saturday marked the sixth time this season the Padres pitching staff has allowed one run or less, tied for the most such games in franchise history through 18 team games (also 2008, 1988, 1975).
• With Everth Cabrera's RBI triple in the fifth inning on Saturday, the Padres have six triples as a team this season, tied with the Angels for the Major League lead.
• Giants first baseman Brandon Belt has homered in each ballpark the team has played in this season: Chase Field, Dodger Stadium, AT&T Park and Petco Park.
• Giants pitchers have issued 30 walks, fewest in the Major Leagues.