Giants hit the road to battle familiar foes

Put the sunblock and rally cap in the hall closet, folks. A nasty fog bank rolled in over the Pacific coastline Wednesday night.

And since the home team has hit the road, you’ll be watching Giants baseball on your TV anyway.

After winning of four of six at AT&T Park, the San Francisco Giants are now down in SoCal for yet another stretch of away games early in the 2013 season.

Coincidentally, they will be visiting the same foes they just hosted in The City By The Bay, the San Diego Padres followed by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

It’s still too early in the season to predict how the Giants will perform in their next two series, particularly after they got crushed on their last roadie.

But coming off back-to-back late game losses at home, San Francisco will have to have faith in its starting pitching and get their offense hot early on to be successful in San Diego before taking off for the desert.

The Giants head into the weekend series with Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong. Zito pitched seven scoreless innings Sunday against San Diego, giving up only five hits and slashing his ERA to 3.42.

Lincecum struck out eight Padres over 6-2/3 scoreless innings Saturday. And if you want to contribute that performance to the 4/20 “holiday” weekend, that is totally your call.

Either way, his performance is a sign he can make it through an outing without that one killer inning where he gives up too many runs.

Lincecum is 11-5 with a 2.33 ERA against the last-place Padres, a level of performance he’d love to maintain on the bump this Friday.

Vogelsong didn’t face the Padres last weekend, but he did put up a mean fight against the Diamondbacks Monday night, striking out four over seven innings in the Giants 5-4 victory.

He also brings a successful history against San Diego with him; “the Bull” recorded a 3-1 with a 2.05 ERA against the Padres last season.

San Francisco was slammed with extra-inning losses Tuesday and Wednesday by the Diamondbacks. Both games were in their grasp, had the lineup put more runs on the board early in the game had the Giants not made sloppy mistakes.

Manager Bruce Bochy said after Friday’s 3-2 win over the Padres that he thought that the Giants’ offense was “starting to get clicking.”

Indeed, the six-game homestand lit up bats throughout the lineup, with the meat of the order hitting especially well. Pablo Sandoval smacked a bomb in the Giants’ 2-0 victory Saturday, and Buster Posey finally hit an offensive stride, blasting home runs in back-to-back games.

The tail end of the order is contributing as well. Brandon Crawford — leading Giants regulars with a .320 average — looks to take his 3-for-4 home performance on Wednesday onto the road. More impressive when you consider he’s batting eighth. After Wednesday’s game, Crawford explained it takes a team effort:

“Helping your team try and win is your goal and it’s somebody different everyday and I think it says a lot about our lineup. We have a deep lineup and guys that can come off the bench and step up too.”

Brandon Belt seems to have finally emerged from his slump, notching a game-winning single in Monday’s game against Arizona and a game-tying home run Tuesday.

Bouncing back after some rest against San Diego, Belt went 4-for-7 in the Diamondbacks series to raise his average to .224.

And Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres also both hit offensive strides against San Diego, which continues to make the battle for the starting spot in left field interesting but gives Bochy offensive options off the bench late on in games.

On a less-than-stellar note, the Giants have created a habit of forcing themselves to make strong offensive pushes late in games.

Angel Pagan’s single in the ninth inning Friday may have given the Giants a 3-2 win over the Padres, and Belt did the same on Monday with a walkoff single. But Belt’s ninth-inning home run Tuesday and Crawford’s game-tying homer on Wednesday weren’t enough to lead the Giants to wins in extra innings in either game against the D’Backs.

Late-inning rallies create excitement for fans. But it’s a lousy formula for consistently winning ballgames, particularly against a club like Arizona who has the potential to be a big threat as the season rolls along.