The surging San Francisco Giants seem well on their way to clinching their second NL West title in three years, and another victory with Barry Zito on the mound will only bring them closer to accomplishing that goal.
San Francisco has won Zito's last eight starts, and he'll look to help it complete a four-game sweep of the visiting Colorado Rockies in the season finale between the teams Thursday.
The Giants (86-63) lead the Los Angeles Dodgers by nine games in the West and decreased their magic number to five with a 7-1 victory over Colorado on Wednesday.
Pablo Sandoval went 3 for 5 with a three-run homer for San Francisco, which has won seven of its last eight games and five of six at home. It marked Sandoval's first homer since July 8, spanning 161 at-bats.
''He hadn't hit a home run since like three years ago,'' said Matt Cain, who pitched eight solid innings for his career-best 15th win.
Giants pitching has held the Rockies to five runs through the first three games of the series, and Zito will look to shut them down again.
Zito (12-8, 4.21 ERA) hasn't lost since Aug. 2, and the Giants will look to win for the ninth consecutive time when he takes the hill. He won his fourth straight decision after allowing one run in 6 2-3 innings of Saturday's 3-2 victory over Arizona.
''It's great to be out there and have a part of a win no matter how we get it,'' Zito said. ''It's not about individual stats, it's about the team stats. My body feels good right now and I'm thankful for that.''
The left-hander four-hit the Rockies in a 7-0 win April 9 before allowing four runs in 5 1-3 innings against them Aug. 12 in San Francisco's 9-6 win. However, he has a 5.25 ERA in his last four starts versus Colorado, which will send Jorge De La Rosa to the mound for his season debut.
De La Rosa hasn't pitched in the majors since May 24, 2011, when he suffered an elbow injury that forced him to undergo Tommy John surgery.
The left-hander said he hasn't felt any pain during his last three rehab starts and is eager to get back on a major league mound.
"It's really exciting to be back in the game," De La Rosa told the team's official website. "But at the same time I have to be calm, don't get too excited on the mound. That will be real hard for me, but I will try to stay calm and make my pitches."
De La Rosa went 5-2 with a 3.51 ERA in 10 starts last season before getting injured. He allowed three runs in six innings of a 3-0 loss in his last start against the Giants on May 8, 2011, but he's 7-2 with a 2.48 ERA in 11 career starts versus San Francisco.
He may not receive much offensive help from a Rockies lineup that has scored three runs or fewer four times during a five-game losing streak. Their Nos. 1-5 hitters went a combined 0 for 16 with eight strikeouts Wednesday as Colorado (58-90) lost for the 12th time in 14 games.
San Francisco has won 13 of 17 against Colorado this season, including five straight at home.