Had Tim Lincecum put together simply a mediocre first half of the season, the San Francisco Giants would likely own a sizable lead atop the NL West.
The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner is now pitching like he's expected to, and his team is rolling.
Lincecum looks to continue his impressive turnaround and help the first-place Giants sweep the San Diego Padres on Wednesday at AT&T Park.
San Francisco (55-42) lost 14 of Lincecum's 18 starts before the All-Star break, yet still ended the first half facing just a half-game deficit behind Los Angeles in the division.
With Tuesday's thrilling 3-2 victory over the Padres, the Giants won for the ninth time in 11 games since the Midsummer Classic to open up a 2 1/2-game lead over the Dodgers. They've won both of Lincecum's starts in that stretch, and the right-hander has looked sharp each time.
After throwing eight shutout innings in a 3-2, 12-inning victory over Houston on July 14, Lincecum (4-10, 5.72 ERA) gave up two runs and five hits in seven innings of Friday's 7-2 win at Philadelphia.
"Building consistency," said Lincecum, who still owns the NL's highest ERA. "Two good outings behind me. Now onto the next one and use this as a springboard."
He would seem to have a good chance of making it three in a row considering the matchup. He has a 0.39 ERA in winning his last three home starts against the Padres, and a 1.90 ERA in 10 career outings against them at AT&T Park.
Although the Giants are feeling better about Lincecum, they may be concerned regarding Pablo Sandoval, who left Tuesday's game with a strained left hamstring. The injury occurred in the third inning when Sandoval, playing first base for the slumping Brandon Belt, went into the splits to complete a sensational double play.
Sandoval, who ranks third on the team with a .299 average, had a run-scoring double in the first inning, his sixth two-bagger in the last nine games. He is scheduled for an MRI on Wednesday.
Belt, mired in a 2-for-34 slump, replaced Sandoval and started the Giants' ninth-inning rally with a leadoff walk. Angel Pagan followed with a single, the two moved up on a passed ball and Brandon Crawford singled to win the game.
San Francisco improved to 6-2 against the Padres this year, and has won 10 of 12 meetings at AT&T Park. The Giants own the majors' second-best home record at 31-16, and have won a season-high six straight games in San Francisco.
The Padres (41-58) arrived in the Bay Area winners of seven of nine, averaging 5.4 runs in that stretch, but they've managed just three runs and 11 hits in the first two games of this series. They're 2 for 18 with runners in scoring position after hitting .358 in such situations in their previous six games.
Scheduled starter Jason Marquis (3-5, 3.79) benefited from San Diego's offense Friday, when he gave up five runs - three earned - and nine hits in five innings of a 9-5 victory over Colorado.
Signed to a minor league contract in late May, the right-hander made his Padres debut June 7 against the Giants, yielding four runs - two earned - and nine hits in six innings of an 8-3 loss. Buster Posey, who was 0 for 4 Tuesday after batting .513 with 17 RBIs in his first 10 games after the break, went 2 for 3 with a homer against Marquis.