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ARI@SF: Benches clear after Sandoval, McDonald bump

The Giants got some help from the D-backs the last few days, and a strong showing in the three-game series against those same D-backs would further the Giants' march towards the division title, beginning with Friday's series opener.

Arizona hosts the Giants having recently taken two straight games against the Dodgers, and coupled with the Giants' back-to-back wins against the Rockies, the magic number for the Giants securing the division title dwindled to 13 as they improved to seven games ahead of the second-place Dodgers.

But don't think the Giants are looking too far past this series. After all, the D-backs have won seven of 12 games between the two clubs this season, including taking two of three from the Giants at AT&T Park last week.

"There's a lot of baseball left," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's going to be a fight. We know it. And that's our nature. We don't do anything easy."

Tempers flared in the final game of the three-game set last week during an eighth-inning incident in which Pablo Sandoval and John McDonald exchanged words. The benches cleared after Sandoval felt McDonald came in too high on a slide into third base. Both sides downplayed the incident afterward.

"It's part of the game. It happens," Sandoval said. "Those moments, you don't think about it."

The Giants will send their ace, Matt Cain, to the mound, opposed by Arizona rookie lefty Tyler Skaggs. Skaggs, the youngest pitcher in the Majors, is coming off a three-inning outing in which he allowed five runs after falling ill the night before.

"The ball wasn't coming out of his hand as good as it has in the past and he wasn't executing his pitches where he wanted to throw them, so I made the decision after three innings to get him out of there," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said.

D-backs: Putz battling stiff back
Closer J.J. Putz was unavailable Wednesday with a stiff back. His availability for Friday's game is uncertain.

"I took a muscle relaxer last night," Putz said Wednesday. "It's definitely better today than it was yesterday."

David Hernandez took Putz's place in the closer's role in both Tuesday's and Wednesday's wins against the Dodgers and figures to remain in the role until Putz is able to return.

"It's not very good today," Gibson said Wednesday of Putz's back. "It's improved, but he's not pain free."

Giants: Surging Scutaro keeps producing
Marco Scutaro's bat has been a welcomed addition to the Giants lineup since they traded for him at the end of July, with the veteran infielder now batting 61-for-179 (.341) in his games in a San Francisco uniform, having notched a hit in 35 of 44 games with the club.

He batted 3-for-5 against the Rockies on Wednesday with two runs scored and two RBIs and enters Friday having recorded multi-hit games in 16 of his last 27 contests.

"You can't take that for granted," teammate Hunter Pence said of Scutaro's productivity. "He kind of makes it look easy, but it's not."

Worth noting
• The Giants head to Arizona with an average of 5.26 runs per game on the road, the highest in the Majors.

• Skaggs has never faced the Giants and will be the first of three left-handed starters for Arizona in the series. The Giants rank sixth in the Majors with a .263 average against southpaws and sixth in the National League with a .265 average against left-handed pitchers this season.

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