Returning home for the first time as the reigning World Series champions might be what the San Francisco Giants need to overcome a slow start.
Opening a weekend-long celebration of last year's achievements, the Giants will raise their title flag Friday before facing the St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park.
Though San Francisco went 2-4 at Los Angeles and San Diego, the atmosphere should be electric for the home opener and throughout the weekend. The Giants will receive their championship rings Saturday, and reigning NL rookie of the year Buster Posey will be honored Sunday.
"For a couple of games there's going to be a lot of hoopla,' manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's going to be special."
Bochy, however, knows his team must stay focused on regrouping after all four losses came by two or fewer runs.
"I'm sure the guys are looking forward to getting home," he said. "We have to enjoy the moment. But at the same time, you've got to put your so-called game faces on. These games are important. We need to play well. We need to play better.'
Scheduled starter Jonathan Sanchez believes the Giants not only must improve this weekend, but find a way to play better overall than they did in 2010.
"It's a new year, a new season. We've got to work. We've got to win this year,' he said. "We've got to work harder, because there's going to be a lot of teams out there that want to beat us. We're just going to bring the same thing we did last year to this year and go from there.'
The Giants should have some momentum after ace Tim Lincecum struck out 13 and Posey, Aubrey Huff and Pablo Sandoval each had three hits in Wednesday's 8-4 win over the Padres.
San Francisco has scored 18 runs in its two victories, but only 10 in the losses.
Posey, 4 for 12 with two doubles versus St. Louis, has hit safely in all six games.
A 13-game winner in 2010, Sanchez hopes for a better result Friday after he allowed four runs - two earned - while striking out eight and walking three in 5 2-3 innings of a 4-3 loss to the Dodgers on Friday.
The left-hander has been solid in two starts versus St. Louis, going 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA.
Sanchez will face a Cardinals' lineup without slugger Matt Holliday, who will miss a sixth straight game after undergoing an appendectomy. Manager Tony La Russa believes Holliday could return later on the team's 10-game western swing.
St. Louis (2-4) also hopes to rebound after a rough homestand versus San Diego and Pittsburgh.
Opening their trip in San Francisco won't make things easier. The Cardinals have lost eight of 12 at AT&T Park since winning their last series there May 22-24, 2006.
"It's a tough road trip," outfielder Lance Berkman told the Cardinals' official website. "We go in there, and the pitching doesn't get any easier obviously when you have the Giants."
The Cardinals, who have not scored more than three runs in any game, are hitting .231 and have two homered twice in 2011.
Slugger Albert Pujols is 4 for 22 with one of those home runs, but is batting .478 with three homers his last six games in San Francisco. He is 4 for 5 with a double versus Sanchez.
Scheduled starter Jake Westbrook has a hit this season, but the Cardinals need him to fare better on the mound after he allowed up eight runs and walked five in 4 1-3 innings of an 11-3 loss to the Padres on Saturday.
The right-hander gave up three runs three runs in six innings of a 6-3 loss in his only previous outing against the Giants on Aug. 20.
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