Giants visit Padres for critical three-game series

MLB

One team feeling the heat of a challenger and another feeling the chill of a looming fall vacation go head-to-head Tuesday night when the San Francisco Giants and host San Diego Padres open a critical three-game series.

The Giants (97-53) have lost three of their last five and have seen their lead in the National League West shrink to one game over the second-place Los Angeles Dodgers (96-54).

Two of those losses came in the Giants’ last two meetings with the Padres (76-73), who took a winning streak to St. Louis on Friday but returned home late Sunday night with a losing streak, having been swept three straight by the Cardinals.

While the Giants have clinched a playoff spot and are looking for more, the Padres are now four games behind the St. Louis Cardinals (80-69) in the race for the final NL wild-card slot. The Cincinnati Reds (78-73) are also a game in front of San Diego.

The Cardinals and Reds both won Monday. The Padres got a day off to lick their wounds and potentially allow any hard feelings in the aftermath of Saturday’s confrontation between Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. to become ancient history.

“Any time stakes are high and everybody knows what’s at stake, anything can happen,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said. “We can have disagreements, but we still love each other; we care about one another. And so when you have strong emotions on both sides, things happen.

“I can’t predict what’s going to happen the next couple of weeks. I just know that we’re going to care and we’re going to continue to lay everything we have out.”

The schedule won’t make a comeback easy for the Padres, who complete a homestand this week with three against the Atlanta Braves before heading north to face the Dodgers three times and then farther north to finish up with three more against the Giants.

The Giants took the first two of a four-game series at home against San Diego last week. But the two guys slated to start Tuesday’s series opener in the rematch then took the mound the next two days and the results flipped.

Right-hander Joe Musgrove (11-9, 2.99 ERA) got the Padres headed in the right direction with six innings of three-run ball in a 9-6 win on Wednesday. He served up home runs to Thairo Estrada and Kris Bryant before calling it a night.

The 28-year-old California native improved to 2-3 with a 5.00 ERA in five career starts against the Giants.

One day later, the Padres jumped on Giants righty Kevin Gausman (14-6, 2.78 ERA) for four runs in five innings in a 7-4 victory. Tatis had a homer against the All-Star.

Gausman fell to 2-1 with a 3.07 ERA in six games, including five starts, lifetime against the Padres.

The Dodgers also got as close as one game at the end of play Thursday, before the Giants rebounded with two straight wins over the Braves to double the margin.

After a 3-0 loss to the Braves on Sunday allowed Los Angeles to creep closer, Giants third baseman Bryant noted his team needs to focus on winning, not what the Dodgers are doing.

“We’ve been playing great baseball, going on a win streak, but they’ve just been matching us,” Bryant said of the defending champs. “That’s annoying. But, hey, people expected the Dodgers to be doing that and we’ve just got to keep our head down and try our best not to scoreboard-watch.”

–Field Level Media

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