AT&T PARK — Both the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland Athletics enter the first part of the Bay Bridge Series on a recent tear. Oakland (53-41) is perhaps the hottest team in baseball — the A’s are 19-5 in their last 24 games — while the Giants (49-46) are riding high off two extra-inning wins versus the Cubs and now sit just three games back in the NL West.
“They’re playing really well. There’s nobody playing better than Oakland right now,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. “They’re clicking everywhere. They’re throwing the ball well, great comebacks and scoring runs, they’re winning games they’re supposed to, their bullpen … you get on a run like they are, that means you’re playing really good baseball.”
Friday’s series opener is an interesting matchup on the mound. Starting for the Giants is their ace, Madison Bumgarner (2-3, 3.09 ERA). Pitching for Oakland is journeyman Edwin Jackson; the A’s are his 13th major league club. The two starters have faced off only once before — in 2012, when Jackson, then a member of the Washington Nationals, helped beat San Francisco 9-4 after Bumgarner allowed seven runs over five innings — but Jackson has pitched against the Giants 11 times with six different teams.
Since donning the Oakland uniform, Jackson has had three strong showings, posting a 2.45 ERA, but the hitter he’s had the most trouble with over the course of his career is now wearing the orange and black. Giants center fielder Andrew McCutchen has a .385 average (25-for-39) and has three doubles, three home runs and nine RBI against Jackson. San Francisco third baseman Pablo Sandoval has really strong numbers against Jackson, too: a .473 average (9-for-19) with two doubles and a home run.
A’s manager Bob Melvin said he’s excited for the series and is expecting some “spirited” fans on both sides. Melvin — who played for the Giants from 1986 to 1988 — might even get a little animated himself — “I get a little razzed a little bit,” he admitted.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Melvin continued. “And both teams are playing really well, so probably more people watching it this time around. They have a really good team over there that’s been playing great, we’ve been playing good baseball, it’s baseball season in the Bay Area, which means there’s a spotlight on the series.
“They’re trying to get to the postseason, and that’s what we’re trying to do. So you’ve got two teams that are trying to accomplish the same thing that are playing very important games right now.”
Both the Giants and the A’s made lineup changes for Friday night’s game. San Francisco will bat catcher Buster Posey fifth, while the A’s will start Chad Pinder in left field.
“It’s more of a balanced lineup a little bit more than what it has been,” Bochy said. “Two righties and then after that, we’re all left-handers or switch hitters who are probably more comfortable from the left side, that’s no secret, so just thought I’d change it up a little bit and kind of balance it.”
Pinder’s insertion into the starting lineup was more a measure of necessity.
“Khris (Davis) has been throwing quite a lot leading up to this, he’s been getting ready to play the outfield, and probably a little too much, so he’s got a little bit of soreness (in the shoulder) today,” Melvin said. “Hopefully we’ll get him in the lineup tomorrow in left field, but we certainly can pick a spot off the bench for him to hit today. I know he wants to play out there and hopefully he’s that much better tomorrow.”
Oakland just called up 31-year-old left-handed reliever Jeremy Bleich — his first career big league call-up. Melvin said he wouldn’t be here if the way his pitching didn’t merit it.
The A’s have been using lefty Ryan Buchter frequently in relief, so Melvin thought that the team could use to have another left-handed reliever in the bullpen.
Bleich played college ball at Stanford (drafted 2008), while Melvin attended Cal, so Melvin joked, “We add another Stanford guy, which, I don’t know how well that sits with me, but that’s OK.”
The A’s already feature former Golden Bears Marcus Semien (drafted 2011) and Mark Canha (drafted 2010), as well as former Cardinal Stephen Piscotty (drafted 2012).
—All the Giants starters who won’t play this weekend are available out of the bullpen.
—San Francisco third baseman Evan Longoria has been taking ground balls and batting practice in the cage. Bochy said that, once the Giants get through the All-Star break, they’re looking at seven to 10 days until Longoria starts a rehab assignment.
—A’s reliever (and former Giant) Yusmeiro Petit continues to impress Melvin, who said, “Typically, when he’s in the game, he holds down the fort and gives us a chance to win a little bit later.”
—Jed Lowrie — an All-Star for Oakland — has, according to Melvin, been a phenomenal resource for the younger players on the team. He said, “We have several guys that they can look to, but I think Jed is kind of the key as far as that goes.”