San Francisco right-hander Tim Lincecum is in the midst of a hugely important season from an individual perspective. He's trying to prove that he can still be an elite starter in the Major Leagues.
Meanwhile, D-backs catcher Miguel Montero is trying to bust out of a slump, and his manager is expressing confidence that he will do exactly that soon.
Those are two intriguing storylines as the Giants and D-backs play again on Wednesday at Chase Field in a key National League West matchup, with right-hander Brandon McCarthy opposing Lincecum.
Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young Award winner, has been a bit resurgent after a disappointing 2012 campaign and showed it again in a terrific outing in his last start. Despite taking a loss -- his first of the season -- Lincecum went seven innings, marking the first time he had done so since Aug. 10 of last year. He struck out nine batters, his highest total in a single game since last July 14. He gave up two runs to the Padres, who happened to hold the Giants to one.
"On a personal note, it was great to go seven and not be all over the place," said Lincecum, who has battled command problems over the last few years, but only walked three in his last outing and has a 1.32 ERA and 17 strikeouts in his last 13 2/3 innings.
"I'll take it as a positive that I put the team in position to come back. I'm trying to get away from comparing this year to last year."
Montero needs to improve his numbers in a hurry if the D-backs are to continue their solid start. Montero is just 8-for-61 since April 12 and has seen his batting average drop from .265 to .200 over that span.
Arizona manager Kirk Gibson doesn't seem terribly concerned about it, however.
"He hasn't had the results, but he has hit the ball better," Gibson said. "Just like anybody else that is struggling, it takes a life of its own and it becomes more than it should. When you get in a slump, the danger is that you think too much about it.
"But there's nothing you can do about it. The key is trying to block it out. The good ones do that. He's a good one and so that's what he does."
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Third baseman Pablo Sandoval enters Wednesday with a lifetime batting average of .357 (50-for-140) with six home runs and 28 RBIs in 37 games at Chase Field, including the game-winning home run in the ninth inning of Tuesday's game. Overall, Sandoval has 11 hits in his last 17 at-bats.
• Catcher Buster Posey's season-high 10-game hitting streak was snapped on Tuesday. He's still batting .371 (13-for-35) with three doubles, three home runs and nine RBIs over his last 11 games.
• Sergio Romo has not allowed a run in 26 games against the D-backs, a span of 19 innings.
D-backs: McCarthy looking to bounce back
Arizona had high hopes for McCarthy when it signed him in the offseason, but through his first five starts with the club, the right-hander is winless. In each outing, McCarthy has allowed at least eight hits. However, opponents are batting .396 on balls hit in play against McCarthy, almost 100 points above the league average of .300.
"He is throwing well, he had the best stuff he has had since joining us," Gibson said of McCarthy's outing last Friday. "But if you look at the difference a few plays make, it's huge. But it's part of baseball and he has to deal with it. ... In my mind, he understands what's going on."
• First baseman Paul Goldschmidt loves facing Lincecum. In 14 at-bats against the San Francisco starter, Goldschmidt has eight hits, including five home runs and 10 RBIs.
• Heath Bell continues to make strides out of the bullpen. The veteran is 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA and 12 strikeouts in his last eight games. Bell has struck out 14 batters in his last nine games.
• Giants pitchers have allowed 29 home runs this season in 27 games. Twenty-four of those home runs have been allowed by Giants starting pitchers, the second-most in the Majors behind Seattle's starting staff (25).
• Arizona went 6-0 in extra-inning games in April, matching its most extra-inning games in a single month. The D-backs are hitting .304 (17-for-56) in extra innings.
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.