It took Max Scherzer 14 starts to gain his first major league victory. Now he has three wins in five starts after pitching the Arizona Diamondbacks over the San Francisco Giants 2-1 on Thursday.
Scherzer (3-4) allowed three hits in 7 2/3 dominant innings, and Justin Upton drove in two runs with a homer and RBI single as the Diamondbacks salvaged the final game of a three-game series between the NL West rivals.
"I think we're seeing the maturation of a good major league pitcher," Arizona manager A.J. Hinch said. "When he's under control and in the strike zone, he's a difficult guy to face."
Upton hit a first-pitch fastball from Jonathan Sanchez (2-6) in the third inning into the pool area in right-center field for his 12th home run. Upton added an RBI single in the seventh off Brandon Medders.
The second run became important in the ninth, when San Francisco closed on a run-scoring wild pitch by Chad Qualls.
Qualls got his 13th save in 16 chances by striking out pinch-hitter Edgar Renteria on a slider with a runner at third.
"It got a little dicey, I won't lie," Scherzer said with a grin. "I was in the training room watching it, and I was more nervous watching that than actually pitching. Glad we got the win."
Scherzer has looked like a different pitcher since the Atlanta Braves scored a career-high eight runs against him on May 31. Scherzer said he could hardly wait to go back to the mound.
"It's not so much about that game, it's about the games after that — how you respond to that type of game," Scherzer said.
Scherzer has responded nicely. Since the loss to the Braves, the 24-year-old has thrown 12 2-3 shutout innings in two starts.
Mixing breaking balls with fastballs in the low-to-mid-90s, Scherzer (3-4) had the Giants off-balance all afternoon. He struck out six and walked one.
"He located his fastball in and out, but he also mixed in a lot of off-speed pitches," San Francisco's Nate Schierholtz said.
Scherzer gave up a leadoff single to Aaron Rowand and retired 17 of his next 18 batters. The only runner was Pablo Sandoval, who walked in the fourth.
The Giants' next hit didn't come until one out in the sixth, when Rowand doubled. But Scherzer retired Schierholtz on a popup and Juan Uribe on a fly ball.
It was the sort of dominance the Diamondbacks projected when they drafted Scherzer out of the University of Missouri with the 11th overall pick in the 2006 amateur draft.
"When we drafted him, he had a plus fastball, and the question was his secondary stuff," Hinch said. "He's starting to answer those questions at this level because he's able to throw some changeups. He's able to mix in a slider. He's not relying solely on being a fastball pitcher."
Sanchez kept the Giants close, giving up a run and three hits in 5 2-3 innings. He struggled with his control, walking a season-high seven, hitting a batter and throwing a wild pitch.
"He did a good job," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He gave us a chance. We just couldn't get on the board."
Notes: Official scorer Rodney Johnson changed a decision in San Francisco's 6-4 victory on Wednesday night, awarding a two-run triple to Giants OF Andres Torres and erasing a fielding error by Arizona CF Chris Young. The decision raised Arizona LHP Doug Davis' ERA to 3.64 from 3.42. ... The Giants finished 6-4 on a road trip to Washington, Florida and Atlanta. They open a three-game series at home Friday against Bay Area rival Oakland. It will be the first home game of the month for the Giants. "It's been a good road trip," Bochy said. "I'm sure the boys are ready to get home." ... Arizona's Mark Reynolds struck out three times, increasing his league-leading total to 87.