The San Francisco Giants will have to battle an unfamiliar opponent and a distracted fan base when they open a three-game home interleague series against the Kansas City Royals on Monday night.
First pitch is scheduled at about 45 minutes after the Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics tip off Game 5 of the NBA Finals less than a mile down the road in San Francisco.
There was no such split allegiance when the Giants were rooted on by 41,197 while completing a three-game sweep over the rival Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday afternoon.
After leading off the game with what turned out to be the only run San Francisco would need in a 2-0 victory, Giants outfielder Austin Slater gave the hometown fans — as well as the average of 40,000-plus who attended games Friday and Saturday — credit for inspiring the club’s first winning streak this month.
“We felt the crowd all weekend,” Slater said. “I thought everyone stepped up. Everyone contributed. I’d give ourselves an ‘A’ (for the series).”
The Giants will be facing the Royals for just the second time since San Francisco and Madison Bumgarner prevailed 4-3 in the 2014 World Series.
The clubs got a four-game rematch — two at each site — in 2017, with the Royals exacting a measure of revenge with 8-1 and 7-2 wins at San Francisco to complete a 3-1 series triumph.
Starting the opener for the Giants will be left-hander Alex Wood (3-5, 4.23), who hasn’t won since May 10. In his last five starts, he is 0-3 with a 4.97 ERA. He did pitch well in his last outing, holding the Colorado Rockies to one run in seven innings, but did not get a decision in the Giants’ 2-1 victory.
The 31-year-old has seen the Royals just once in his career, a three-batter relief appearance for the Atlanta Braves as a rookie in 2013. Other than pitcher Zack Greinke, Wood has faced just one current Royal more than three times in his career. That would be Michael A. Taylor, who has stung him for two doubles and a home run while going 8-for-16.
A career .241 hitter with a lifetime best of .271 in 2017, Taylor has been one of the hottest Royals of late. He raised his average to .278 with a single and his fourth home run in Sunday’s 10-7 home loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
Taylor will take a seven-game hitting streak into the series opener, with four multi-hit games helping raise his average a whopping 49 points.
His hot streak comes as new hitting coach Alec Zumwalt has started to make an impact after replacing fired Terry Bradshaw last month.
“There is no settling into this,” Zumwalt said. “All of us are just working alongside each other and trying to find a rhythm, and each and every day, I feel like we’re getting more in line with where we want to go.”
The Royals are scheduled to open a nine-game California trip with right-hander Brady Singer (3-1, 4.33) on the hill. The 25-year-old is coming off an 8-4 home win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday, as he limited the American League East power to three runs in five innings.
He has never faced the Giants, and has gone just 1-2 with a 5.49 ERA in four career interleague starts.
The Royals have lost two in a row after winning three straight.
–Field Level Media