Giants’ title hopes flickering

Pablo Sandoval and the San Francisco Giants aren’t giving up on winning the NL West, but the task is daunting.

A lineup without Carlos Beltran would make it even more of a challenge.

With Beltran’s status unclear, Sandoval and the Giants try to continue capitalizing on the last-place San Diego Padres on Tuesday night at Petco Park.

Most offshore sports books monitored by the SportsOptions odds product opened the Giants as slight $1.10 road favorites, with the total set at seven ‘over’ (minus $1.20).

San Francisco (74-67) is second in the West, seven games back of first-place Arizona with 21 to play. The Giants failed to capitalize on a visit from the Diamondbacks over the weekend, dropping two of three. They meet again for three games in Phoenix from Sept. 23-25, but that series will be too late for the Giants to make a run unless they make up some ground first.

To do that, San Francisco must take advantage in the meantime of playing its next 16 games against the rest of the division, which is exclusively below .500.

Sandoval, who went 0 for 9 in the series against Arizona, got the seemingly favorable 16-game stretch off to a positive start by belting a pair of solo homers and scoring three runs in Monday’s 7-2 win over San Diego (61-80). The victory was the Giants’ seventh in nine meetings with the Padres, and came one day after they mustered three hits and wasted an eighth-inning lead en route to a 4-1 loss to Arizona.

“I’m proud of how the guys bounced back,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “They played so well. I mean, that’s as tough a loss as we’ve had all year. We played one of our better games. We did a great job of putting that game behind us.”

Sandoval is hitting .353 with five homers and 10 RBIs in his last 13 road games, and is batting .385 with two homers and six RBIs in seven visits this season to pitcher-friendly Petco.

San Francisco is hoping Beltran will be able to return after he missed Monday’s series opener with an illness. Bochy said he had either serious food poisoning or the flu and was sick all night.

Beltran is batting .395 in 12 games since returning from a strained right hand and wrist.

San Francisco will give the ball to Eric Surkamp (0-0, 1.50 ERA), who is slated to be recalled from Class A San Jose to make his second appearance in the majors.

The 24-year-old left-hander showed promise Aug. 27, allowing one run and six hits in six innings of a 2-1, 10-inning victory over Houston. He overcame some early jitters, throwing one of his first pitches to the backstop and walking his first batter and three in the first three innings.

Surkamp will pitch on regular rest after throwing six scoreless innings to win for San Jose on Thursday.

The Padres, losers in 10 of 11, will turn to Wade LeBlanc (2-4, 5.14). The left-hander is 3-0 with a 2.10 ERA in four career starts against the Giants – all San Diego victories – but has yet to face them in 2011.

LeBlanc has struggled in his last two outings, surrendering nine runs and 13 hits in 10 innings. He gave up four runs in six innings of Wednesday’s 4-2 loss at Los Angeles.

“I didn’t have a whole lot, so when you get to that point, it’s just a matter of how close you can keep the game and give the guys a chance to win it,” he said.

LeBlanc has held Sandoval to two hits in 11 at-bats.

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