The San Francisco Giants will host the Los Angeles Angels Thursday night at Oracle Park, the final game of a home-and-home four-game series, happy to have Austin Slater back in the lineup.
Slater had been out since Aug. 15 with a flexor strain in his right elbow before returning Wednesday, when he went 2 for 3 with a home run in a 7-2 win over the Angels as the DH.
The Angels, who started left-hander Patrick Sandoval on Wednesday, will throw another lefty on Thursday in Jose Suarez.
Slater, a right-handed hitter, became the seventh player ever to homer twice in a game off Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw on Aug. 8. He’s hitting .444 (8 for 18) with three homers vs. left-handers this season, and is hitting .341/.453/.659 overall.
Improving against right-handers would make the Giants look at Slater as more of an every-day player instead of a platoon player. It’s the transition that outfielder Mike Yastrzemski made last season.
“I’ve always felt that I can hit both, but it’s a matter of proving it,” Slater said. “The track record suggests that I’ve struggled more against righties than lefties. I’m making a goal of setting out to prove that wrong.”
Slater also has shown an ability to run the bases and play good defense, something Giants manager Gabe Kapler has noted.
“He’s become more dependable as an all-around player,” Kapler said. “It’s one of the things we’ve pointed to about Yaz. There aren’t a lot of holes in his game.
“He’s a good defender, he gets good jumps. He’s taking good routes to the baseball, making high quality throws, hitting left and right. Yaz has kind of become a complete player. Slater is looking to tweak every part of his game and raise the bar for himself so that he establishes himself as a great all-around player as well.”
Left-hander Andrew Heaney initially was scheduled to start Thursday’s game, but Suarez will get the nod instead. It’ll be Suarez’s first major league appearance this season. He was 2-6 with a 7.11 ERA in 19 games (15 starts) with the Angels last season.
Heaney will instead start on Friday, pushing Julio Teheran out of the rotation and into the bullpen.
The Angels might see the return of shortstop Andrelton Simmons, out since July 27 with a sprained left ankle.
“He’s doing really well,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “We’re getting closer. He needs a good day (Wednesday) and not have any kind of a setback in any way. He should be right on the verge.”
Right-hander Kevin Gausman will start for the Giants, looking for his first victory this year. He had his best start of the season on Aug. 9 against the Dodgers, giving up one run and three hits in 6 1/3 innings but getting a no-decision. In his most recent start, Gausman gave up three runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings.
He is 2-3 with a 5.15 ERA in six career starts against the Angels.
Mike Trout has hit Gausman well, going 7 for 17 with three home runs. Anthony Rendon is 7 for 21 with one home run against Gausman.
–Field Level Media