San Diego travels up to San Francisco leading the Giants by 2 1/2 games and are riding a four-game winning streak into this pivotal series.  “We’re feeling good about ourselves,” said pitcher Jon Garland.  “We can’t get a little overexcited.  We just need to go up there an continue to play good baseball.”  The Padres picked up their seventh sweep of the season in beating the Pirates in a three-game set and enter with the National League’s best record at 67-46 (+2,360).  New addition Ryan Ludwick has been leading the offense, hitting three home runs in his past four games, after hitting just .222 during his first 10 games with the club. The club is a solid 21-11 against left-handed starters this year (+1,190) and the total is 15-16 O/U in those contests.  San Diego has compiled a solid 8-4 record as a road underdog of +100 to +125 this season (+520) and are 27-25 in this situation the last three years (+560).

Padres starting pitcher Clayton Richard is 9-5 with a 3.83 ERA in 23 starts this season and is coming in on a personal two-game winning streak.  In his last three starts, he has allowed 10 runs and 19 hits in 15 innings of work.  The left-hander is 4-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 11 road starts this season, but has issued 28 walks and 79 hits in 66 innings of work.  He will be making his 17th nighttime appearance, posting an 8-3 mark and 3.71 ERA.  Richard has tallied 13 career outings (11 starts) in August, going 6-2 with a 5.72 ERA.  In four career starts versus the Giants, he has compiled a 2-1 record and 3.70 ERA, including a 5-2 victory at AT&T Park on May 12.  In that start, he allowed two runs and seven hits over seven innings.

San Francisco enters this series having won three of four from the Chicago Cubs, but the competition level rises this weekend in hosting the first place Padres.  The Giants have lost seven of eight games in the season series this year, managing to score a total of 16 runs.  The club was held to just four runs while being swept by San Diego at home on May 11-13.  Since the All-Star break, the team has produced a 19-9 record, leading the wild card race by a game over Cincinnati and Philadelphia.  San Francisco is 36-21 at home this season (+790) and 10-8 as a home favorite of -125 to -150 (-120).  The team has struggled against divisional opponents all season, posting a 19-23 mark (-680) and the total is 16-25 O/U in those contests.

Giants starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez is 8-7 with a 3.55 ERA in 24 appearances (23 starts) and is highly confident in his club coming into this series.  “We’re going to beat them three times,” Sanchez said.  “If we get to first place, we’re not going to look back.”  San Francisco picked up four consecutive victories before his last outing, as he dropped a 6-3 road decision to the Braves.  In that outing, he allowed four runs and five hits in four innings of work.  The left-hander is 5-3 with a 3.39 ERA in 12 home games (11 starts) this season, allowing opponents to hit for a .211 average.  In 16 career appearances (nine starts) against the Padres, he has compiled a 2-4 record and 2.70 ERA.

Bettors will find the Padres being a solid 7-1 in Richard’s last eight starts versus NL West opponents and the over is 13-6 in the team’s last 19 games versus the division.  Despite the team’s lackluster overall record against the West, San Francisco is 8-1 against the division in its last nine opportunities.  The Giants are also 4-1 in Sanchez’s last five starts against Western opponents.