The San Francisco Giants hope to avoid a letdown when they open a three-game home series against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.
The Giants will take the field as the first-place team in the National League West as the result of consecutive ninth-inning rallies that produced wins over the second-place Los Angeles Dodgers the past two nights.
LaMonte Wade Jr.’s two-out, two-run single broke a tie in a four-run ninth that gave San Francisco a 5-3 win on Thursday. The Giants earned three wins in four games during the nail-biting series.
The Giants, who had lost two of three in St. Louis before heading west, get little chance to catch their breath as they kick off a nine-game homestand. The Dodgers get a rematch next Tuesday through Thursday, and they will be followed into town by the Houston Astros, the first-place team in the American League West.
San Francisco manager Gabe Kapler tried to keep his team on an even keel after the dramatic ending Thursday.
“Our guys are confident right now. We believe in each other as a group,” he said. “We’re going to get on that plane feeling like we played a good series. We didn’t start this road trip off very strong, but we finished it strong. I think that’s what the guys are thinking about right now.”
The Pirates reside in last place in the NL Central. They have lost four in a row, including three straight at Arizona to begin a six-game trip.
The Giants have taken care of business against teams under .500 this season, recording a 35-14 record.
Two of those losses, however, came on a four-game trip to Pittsburgh in May, during which the Pirates thrilled their home crowd with walk-off wins on back-to-back days. Gregory Polanco had the game-winner on a sacrifice fly in a 3-2 win one night before Jacob Stallings ended an 8-6 win with a two-run homer off Giants closer Jake McGee.
A pair of right-handers — the Pirates’ Chad Kuhl (3-5, 4.31 ERA) and the Giants’ Johnny Cueto (6-5, 4.01) — are the scheduled starters in Friday’s series opener.
Kuhl is coming off two of his best efforts of the season, having limited the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets to a total of one earned run and six hits in 11 innings. The Pirates won both contests, 2-1 over Atlanta and 4-1 over New York.
The 28-year-old did not pitch in the earlier series against the Giants. In fact, he hasn’t faced them since 2018. He is 0-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two career starts against San Francisco.
Stallings insisted Wednesday after the Pirates’ 6-4, series-ending loss at Arizona that his club isn’t far away from turning around its current losing streak.
“It’s not like we played terrible baseball,” he said of the sweep against the Diamondbacks, which featured a pair of two-run defeats. “We just didn’t play well enough to get it done. That part is frustrating for me.”
Cueto is winless in his past three starts, having allowed 10 runs and 18 hits in 16 innings.
He started the earlier 8-6 loss at Pittsburgh and left with a 4-2 lead in the fifth inning despite serving up eight hits.
The 35-year-old veteran has dominated the Pirates over the years, going 21-4 with a 2.17 ERA in 32 starts. He has more wins over Pittsburgh than over any other team.
–Field Level Media