The San Francisco Giants will look to further close the gap in their all-time rivalry with the visiting Oakland Athletics when they seek a second straight win Wednesday night in the finale of a two-game interleague series between the San Francisco Bay Area neighbors.
Starting with their four-game sweep in the 1989 World Series, the A’s held a 73-61 upper hand over the Giants until the West Bay team took four of six last season.
San Francisco took an additional cut out of the deficit with an 8-2 victory in the series opener Tuesday, giving the Giants three consecutive victories dating back to a pair last August that clinched the annual Bay Bridge Series.
One night after getting dominant starting pitching from Carlos Rodon, Giants manager Gabe Kapler announced the series finale would be a bullpen game for the second time in three days.
Left-hander Sam Long (0-0, 0.00 ERA), who worked the first inning as the first of eight regular relievers who combined on a five-hitter in Monday’s 4-2 win at Milwaukee, is expected to take the mound first.
The A’s fared no better against the San Francisco bullpen than they did against Rodon in the series opener.
After the veteran left-hander had allowed one run and three hits in six innings, striking out nine, relievers Dominic Leone, Jarlin Garcia, Yunior Marte and Kervin Castro gave Oakland just one more run and two more hits over the final three innings, striking out six.
Oakland manager Mark Kotsay noted after the loss that the Giants can expect to see more of Sheldon Neuse. Playing third base, he had two of the A’s five hits, raising his season average to .327, in addition to stealing two bases.
Neuse has made starts at first, second and third base this season, helping Kotsay fill holes left by injuries to players such as Jed Lowrie and Chad Pinder.
“He did a great job,” Kotsay praised of Neuse’s effort on Tuesday. “Sheldon is really taking advantage of the opportunity right now and really playing well.”
The A’s are expected to counter with right-hander Paul Blackburn (2-0, 1.80), who has been an early-season surprise.
A native of the Oakland suburb of Antioch, Blackburn has pitched Oakland to three straight wins, going five innings in each and never allowing more than two runs. He limited Baltimore to one run and three hits in a 6-4 win in his most recent outing last Thursday.
Blackburn has made one previous start against the Giants, that coming in July 2017 in Oakland. He was the winning pitcher that day in an 8-5 victory despite serving up five runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings.
That Giants lineup did not feature either Wilmer Flores or Austin Slater, the two big hitters in Tuesday’s win. Each smacked three-run homers, with Flores adding a run-scoring double to complete a four-RBI night.
Slater, who often doesn’t start against righties, expects to be called upon at some point of the series finale. He entered Tuesday’s game as a pinch hitter, before staying in the contest and eventually belting his homer.
“That’s what the role has been defined as,” Slater said. “We support each other. We’re ready whenever that call comes. (Kapler) likes to switch it up.”
–Field Level Media