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PIT@MIL: Fiers strikes out seven over seven innings

With 30 days remaining in the regular season, playoff races are heating up throughout the Majors. In no National League city will that be more apparent Saturday than in San Francisco, with two contenders squaring off.

The Brewers will enter AT&T Park with a 1 1/2-game lead on the Cardinals in the NL Central, while the Giants will enter as owners of the NL's first Wild Card spot, a half-game ahead of the Cardinals. They trail the Dodgers by 3 1/2 games in the NL West.

Their recently improved fortunes along the shores of McCovey Cove have helped the Giants better their standing. After Friday night's 13-2 shellacking of Milwaukee, they've won six of their last seven home games and eight of their last 11.

Tasked with continuing the success will be Jake Peavy. He's 2-4 with a 3.18 ERA in six starts with the Giants. He's 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA in two starts against the Brewers this season.

But after allowing the Giants to amass a season-high 13 runs Friday night, the visitors might be countering by sending the perfect pitcher to the mound.

They'll start Mike Fiers, who is 4-0 with a 1.29 ERA in four starts since his early-August promotion. He's struck out 32 and allowed just 10 hits in 28 innings during that span.

Giants: Bochy shuffles lineup
For a second consecutive game Friday, manager Bruce Bochy batted rookie Joe Panik second and Hunter Pence fifth.

Pence has spent the majority of the season in the two-hole, but thanks to Panik's torrid August, Bochy said he likes the more diversified lineup he has with Panik behind leadoff hitter Angel Pagan.

Panik higher and Pence lower gives the bottom half of the lineup more lefty-righty variation and also inserts much-needed speed in between Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse.

Brewers: Fiers on fire
An injury to Matt Garza took Fiers out of Triple-A Nashville and placed him in the Brewers' rotation. What he's done since is what will keep him there.

"I'm enjoying it. That's fun to watch, especially because he's pitching so much to his strengths. That's what's good about it," pitching coach Rick Kranitz said. "You watch a guy who's getting ahead, using the curveball to his advantage and using the high heater. That's tough to lay off of."

That heater usually sits at 88-89 mph, so what makes Fiers so good?

"Hitters have always said that it feels like he throws harder than what it is," Kranitz said. "It's like, 'Whoa,' and the ball is on him. Deception means a lot in this game. There's guys who throw 95 [mph] and can't get anybody out because they show him the ball. If you show it, they're going to hit it, unless you have unbelievable movement and all that. And what [Fiers] does have is 'stuff.' He spins it and all that. You spin a baseball fast, you're going to be able to throw it by guys. It's like it hits an oil slick."

Worth noting
• The Giants are 53-15 this season when scoring the game's first run.

• Giants outfielder Hunter Pence has an 11-game hitting streak.

• Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez needs one save for 40 on the season, which would be the fifth time in his career that he's eclipsed the 40-save plateau in a season. Comments