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Zito escapes a jam vs. the D-backs

As the last two champions of the National League West, the D-backs and Giants entered this season with high expectations. So far, both have lagged well behind the surging Dodgers.

San Francisco and Arizona, currently a distant second and third in the division, will battle for traction in the race when they open a three-game series on Monday afternoon at AT&T Park. The D-backs swept the Giants in the season-opening series in Phoenix, but the Giants won two of three games there earlier this month.

The D-backs are 10-15 in May, but beat the Brewers on Saturday and Sunday, giving them consecutive victories for the second time this month. The last time Arizona won three in a row was April 29-May 1.

The Giants have won seven of their last 11 after a four-game split with the Marlins, but they still sit 7 1/2 games behind the Dodgers and three ahead of the D-backs.

Monday's game will feature a matchup of former Oakland A's pitchers, with Barry Zito taking the ball for San Francisco and Trevor Cahill for Arizona.

Zito has a 5.63 ERA in his past four starts -- including one against Arizona -- with 19 walks and 17 strikeouts in 24 innings. On Wednesday in Milwaukee, his error helped the Brewers score six first-inning runs. Zito lasted three innings, surrendering eight runs.

Cahill is coming off one of his best starts of the season. On Tuesday, he held the Dodgers to one run in six innings, although the bullpen later blew his lead.

The right-hander gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings in his first start this season against the Giants, on May 12 in Arizona. Cahill's only career start at AT&T Park came last season with the A's, when he allowed one run on one hit and struck out six in six innings.

D-backs: A place for Roberts
Ryan Roberts started at third base for the D-backs on Sunday and went 2-for-4 with an RBI. It was Roberts' fifth straight start at either second or third base, and he is 5-for-18 (.278) in that span, with three walks, one double and one home run.

Josh Bell is hitting 2-for-13 (.154) since his May 21 callup, which figured to cut into Roberts' playing time.

"Rhino is a dirtbag baseball player, and I say that in a very complimentary way," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He can do a lot. He's versatile, both offensively and defensively. He brings a lot for this team. I've asked him to do some things in preparation, he's done them. He deserves to play."

• Catcher Miguel Montero, who signed a five-year, $60 million contract extension on Saturday, is expected to return to the lineup on Monday after missing the previous five games. He tweaked his groin last Monday and has been out of action since.

Montero is batting .255 with a .693 OPS and hasn't homered since April 14.

Giants: Adjusting the Belt
First baseman Brandon Belt hasn't homered this season and has six hits in his past 41 at-bats. But the Giants are hopeful that some recent mechanical adjustments soon will begin paying dividends.

Based on guidance from the team's coaches, Belt has made his stance more open and upright, and he also had a conversation with manager Bruce Bochy.

"He was a little down," Bochy said. "We talked about a lot of things, about a hitting approach. Sometimes you have to make adjustments, and that's where he's at."

The 24-year-old didn't start any of the Giants' three games in Miami but entered each game off the bench, going 1-for-4. He struck out in his lone at-bat on Sunday.

• Melky Cabrera went 4-for-4 on Sunday for his 24th multihit game in 47 starts. It was Cabrera's seventh game with at least three hits, and he now is batting .369, including .452 on the just completed seven-game road trip.

"It's ridiculous," Giants pitcher Matt Cain said. "He has just been doing this since the spring, so it has just been what we've been seeing. It has just been standard for him. We have been so used to it that if he doesn't get hits, we think something is wrong."

Worth noting
• The Giants will play 13 of their next 16 games at home, surrounding a trip to San Diego. They won't leave the West Coast until traveling to Washington on July 3.

• The D-backs, starting a six-game road trip, actually have played better away from home this season. They are 10-15 at Chase Field, including a 6-15 stretch, compared with 12-11 elsewhere. Comments