The San Francisco Giants went into the All-Star break atop the NL's wild card standings thanks in large part to having the second-best home record. Their position at the top could be in jeopardy with a 10-game road trip to start the second half.
The Giants look to overcome their road woes as they open a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.San Francisco (49-39) went 31-15 at AT&T Park in the first half, matching Boston for most home wins in the majors and ranking second in the NL behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in home winning percentage at .674.The Giants weren't nearly as impressive on the road, where they're 18-24 coming out of the break. Improving their play outside San Francisco would go a long way toward helping them stay in playoff contention, something few expected from a young team that went 72-90 in 2008.San Francisco will travel to play four games in Atlanta and three in Colorado before returning home to face the Pirates starting July 27."We know there's a lot of baseball left," manager Bruce Bochy told the team's official Web site. "To see the excitement created here, we're enjoying it. ... It's great to see the buzz in the city."There's significantly less excitement in Pittsburgh, where the Pirates (38-50) are on track for a major league record 17th straight losing season. They lost 11 of their last 14 games before the All-Star break, including the last four by a combined 21-11."We're young, but we're making improvements," manager John Russell said after his club capped the first half with a 5-2 loss Sunday at Philadelphia.The Pirates, who are 22-17 at home this season, swept a three-game series against the Giants at PNC Park last year en route to a 4-2 record against them. This is the first meeting between the clubs in 2009.Barry Zito (5-9, 5.01 ERA) will take the mound for the Giants hoping to work out the kinks that contributed to his up-and-down first half.The left-hander followed 8 1/3 shutout innings in a win over Florida on July 7 by giving up a career-high tying nine earned runs in 4 1/3 innings of a 10-4 loss to San Diego on Sunday.Asked to describe his performance in the first half of the season, Zito said, "Inconsistent. Had some good games. Had some bad games. The goal is consistency. It is what it is. I'm not going to keep reliving the past."Zito is 0-2 with a 4.09 ERA in two career starts against Pittsburgh, which will counter with left-hander Paul Maholm (6-4, 4.60).Maholm is 3-1 with a 2.96 ERA in seven home starts this season. He won his last outing before the break on the road, holding Houston to two runs over six innings of a 6-3 victory July 7.Maholm is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in four starts against the Giants, who are batting .179 (7 for 39) with one home run and eight strikeouts against left-handers since June 27.