(Photo credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports)
With their playoff hopes fading fast, the San Francisco Giants will face their fiercest rival in the hopes of making up ground in the wild-card chase.
The Giants (76-76) will open a four-game series against the host Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday. They are hoping to find some success on what has been a difficult final road trip of the regular season.
Since hitting the road on Friday, San Francisco has gone 1-5 on stops at Colorado and Arizona. The Giants were swept in a brief two-game series at Arizona, losing the finale 7-1 on Wednesday.
The Giants have won just five times over their past 30 road games.
San Francisco is now three games back of the final wild-card spot in the National League with 10 games to play. And seven of those games are against the NL West champion Dodgers, including three to close out the season in the Bay Area from Sept. 29-Oct. 1.
To make matters worse, the Giants would have to jump three teams to become playoff eligible.
"Obviously, these were must-win games," Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. "Going back several games, those were also must-win games. Now, the math is not on our side. Every game is one that we have to win."
San Francisco rookie left-hander Kyle Harrison (1-1, 5.18 ERA) is expected to start on Thursday in his first career appearance against Los Angeles.
The Dodgers (93-58) will send rookie right-hander Emmet Sheehan (3-1, 5.44) to the mound Thursday. Sheehan pitched three scoreless innings of relief Saturday against the Seattle Mariners on a night when the Dodgers clinched the division title.
Sheehan likely isn't to be used as a starter in the upcoming playoffs, but he could have value if the Dodgers mix and match their pitchers in games. Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts has hinted an at unconventional pitching plan for the postseason.
Roberts was asked about his comfort level with a starting rotation that hardly resembles the one that started the season and has Clayton Kershaw struggling with his mechanics as recently as earlier this month.
"I'm much more comfortable and I think that stems from their confidence," Roberts said. "I can trust them all I want, the (coaching) staff can trust them all they want, but they have to trust themselves and believe in themselves."
Lance Lynn, Bobby Miller and Kershaw will comprise the starting staff when the division series begins. Things could get interesting if the Dodgers advance, with bullpen games not out of the question, or even piggy-back games where multiple pitchers contribute two or three innings.
Much of the final stages of that pitching preparation for the Dodgers will come in the games ahead against the Giants.
"Just keep the focus narrow," Roberts said. "We don't expect them to change. The stakes are different but I think they can handle it. Just be who they are and use their strengths and make good pitches."
The Dodgers saw their five-game winning streak come to an end Wednesday in a 4-2 defeat to the Detroit Tigers, with the offense collecting just three hits. One was Max Muncy's 36th home run to tie a career high.
--Field Level Media