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SF@LAD: Cain fans five over seven strong innings

September means different things to different teams, and the National League West-leading Giants took the opportunity to start off the final full month of the season on a winning note against the Cubs.

When the two teams hit the field Sunday for the finale of their weekend series at Wrigley Field, the Giants will be putting ace Matt Cain on the mound to close out their road trip, meeting Cubs left-hander Travis Wood in a rubber match.

Regardless of the outcome, the Giants have a playoff race on their minds, while the Cubs have other business to attend to before the regular season concludes.

"It's a fun time of year," Giants catcher Buster Posey said. "This is the time that you work so hard for in the offseason and Spring Training and the months leading up to this point. Guys are coming to the ballpark excited."

The Cubs, on the other hand, have to evaluate what they've got on their roster as they try to move forward and get better.

"The way our record is, and the end of the season coming up, you can find out a lot about people," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "Are they that guy who grinds it out on a daily basis, compared to caring if the season is ending? You come to play to beat somebody's butt every day. You don't know Oct. 1 is nearing."

The Giants have used a trip through the lower end of the NL Central standings to extend their lead over the Dodgers, sweeping the Astros before splitting the first two games in Chicago. It'll be up to Cain to finish the job, and the Giants couldn't ask for anyone better.

Cain, who dealt a perfect game earlier this year, has a run of four straight strong starts -- going at least seven innings while allowing two earned runs or fewer each times -- with three victories to show for them. A win on Sunday would match his career high with his 14th win of 2012.

Wood's just happy to turn the calendar. Wood was winless in August, despite four quality starts in five outings, including his last effort against the Brewers in which he allowed three earned runs in seven innings of work.

Wood also hit a homer off Yovani Gallardo in that one, but that didn't matter much to him.

"It's a moot point when you still lose the ballgame," he said.

Giants: Nady makes himself at home
• A well-traveled outfielder who has landed with his hometown team, Xavier Nady got off to a great start with the Giants on Saturday. He delivered a bases-clearing double in the first inning to get the Giants rolling toward victory.

Nady, who grew up in Salinas, Calif., south of the Bay Area and attended the University of California, already was excited about the prospects of playing for the Giants before his major contribution in his first at-bat with the club.

"To come to a team in first place, it's a wonderful time," said Nady, who arrived as a .271 lifetime hitter with 100 career homers. "I've known [Giants manager Bruce Bochy] for a long time. I'm obviously excited to have the opportunity to play for him. He's always been good to me."

Bochy said he would play Nady against both left- and right-handers going forward.

Cubs: Jackson showing his wares
• Brett Jackson, who had two doubles in an inning earlier this week, continues to showcase his talents, which Sveum and the rest of the Cubs' braintrust continue to evaluate for the former first-round pick's future.

Eliminating some of his strikeouts -- he had 158 in the Minors before his callup and has 39 with the Cubs -- while maintaining his efficiency when he does put the bat on the ball is key, Sveum says.

"Right now, we're going to deal with some of the strikeouts and the at-bats, but what you're seeing is a kid who is fortunately not a deer in headlights," Sveum said. "He's going up there with the intention of doing some damage all the time and swinging the bat and getting some good swings. He's getting quite a few walks and you look up, and with the strikeouts, he's got an over .800 OPS. You don't want to live with [the strikeouts], but you can live with it as long as the OPS and walks are there."

Jackson has played excellent in center field.

"He's a guy with a lot of tools and some adjustments need to be made to put him in a spot in the order where we can use his speed," Sveum said.

Worth noting
• The Giants lead the season series, 4-1, heading into Sunday's last meeting between the two clubs.

• The Cubs are 11-3 against NL West clubs at Wrigley Field, but 0-13 on the road.

• Once this series is complete, the Cubs head east to Washington for a Labor Day afternoon meeting with the Nationals to begin a three-game set, and the Giants head home for a homestand that will see the D-backs in town the first part of the week, and the rival Dodgers arriving at AT&T Park for the weekend.

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