The host San Francisco Giants will have to deal with a pitcher who’s been tough on them this season when they continue their pursuit of a National League wild-card spot against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night.
The Giants beat their NL West rival for just the fourth time in 10 tries this season when Evan Longoria contributed a two-run homer to a 6-1 triumph in the opener of a four-game series Monday night.
In pursuit of a fifth straight win, the Giants are scheduled to send right-hander Jakob Junis (4-3, 3.78 ERA) to the mound against Diamondbacks righty Merrill Kelly (10-5, 2.95) on Tuesday.
Kelly will make his fourth start against the Giants this season, having gone 2-0 while allowing just four runs and 10 hits in 21 1/3 innings. He went against Junis in his most recent start against the Giants, throwing eight shutout innings and giving up three hits in a 7-0 win last month.
Kelly has gone 5-3 with a 2.79 ERA in 13 career starts against the Giants.
The 33-year-old has gotten three consecutive no-decisions to extend his streak of unbeaten starts to eight, during which he’s 4-0 with a 1.86 ERA.
Kelly has been particularly tough in his career on Mike Yastrzemski (4-for-28 with five strikeouts) and LaMonte Wade (4-for-21 with two strikeouts). Yastrzemski and Wade both played major roles in the Giants’ three-game sweep of the Pirates to end last week.
Kelly got some heady praise on the eve of the San Francisco series from veteran teammate Madison Bumgarner, a former Giant who was the losing pitcher in Monday’s opener.
“Merrill has been really good,” Bumgarner said. “He kind of reminds me of Ryan Vogelsong (a Giants reclamation project who contributed to the team’s 2012 and 2014 titles). I think he’s starting to realize how good he is now. I’d trade my stuff for his in a minute.”
If Monday’s game was any indication, the Giants might try one of their secret weapons against Kelly this time around.
The Giants entered the week as the major league leaders in bunt hits with 24, then got one from an unusual source — catcher Joey Bart — in Monday’s win.
“We were just talking to him about that, and he took it into the game and implemented it at a perfect time,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “It’s one of the areas where we’ve excelled this year.”
The bunt hit was just the second of Bart’s career. He also had a double and a two-run single, raising his average to .233, the highest it’s been since April 19.
The Giants hope they’ve found another Vogelsong in Junis, who went just 29-35 in five seasons with the Kansas City Royals before signing with the Giants as a free agent in March.
Junis is coming off his worst outing of the season, when he was bombed for six runs and seven hits in 2 1/3 innings in a 13-7 loss at San Diego last Wednesday. The Giants have won all four games since.
The 29-year-old is 1-1 with a 2.61 ERA in two career starts against the Diamondbacks.
–Field Level Media
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