NL West: Slumping Giants turn to Cueto for Game 2 in L.A.
Los Angeles Dodgers' Adrian Gonzalez, right, hits a game-winning double as San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey watches during the ninth inning of a baseball game, Monday, Sept. 19, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Dodgers won 2-1. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
LOS ANGELES — Bruce Bochy realizes his club is facing an enormous challenge. However, the San Francisco manager remains confident the Giants can reverse their fortunes and play their way into the postseason.
“These guys have been through it,” Bochy said. “I don't know what's going to happen, but I know this is a battle-tested group and they'll go out there and play their normal game as hard as they can. They're going to handle it. There's no worry there.”
Giants All-Star right-hander Johnny Cueto (16-5, 2.86 ERA) will try to help his team recover from a Monday night debacle when he faces off against Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Rich Hill (12-4, 2.06 ERA) in the second game of a three-game series Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers (85-65) increased their lead in the National League West to six games Monday by rallying for two runs in the ninth inning off the San Francisco bullpen, producing a 2-1 victory. Adrian Gonzalez's double gave Los Angeles the walk-off win.
The Giants (79-71) blew a franchise single-season-record ninth game when leading after eight innings. San Francisco slipped into a tie for the second NL wild card with the St. Louis Cardinals (79-71). Both teams are a game behind the team holding the top wild-card spot, the New York Mets (80-70).
San Francisco desperately needs Cueto to remain their stopper. The right-hander has five complete games in 30 starts this season, including one in his last outing on Thursday against the Cardinals. Cueto allowed two runs on five hits with seven strikeouts and a walk in a 6-2 win at AT&T Park.
Cueto is 3-2 with a 2.43 ERA in his past six starts. Against the Dodgers, he is 4-6 with a 2.93 ERA in 12 career starts.
Hill is 3-1 with a 1.48 ERA since the Dodgers acquired him from the Oakland Athletics in a trade-deadline deal. His only defeat occurred during his last outing on Thursday, when he gave up four runs on four hits in 5 1/3 innings to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Hill struck out eight and walked one in a 7-3 defeat.
Hill is 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA in six career starts against the Giants, limiting them to a .219 batting average. He last faced them on Aug. 24 in his first start as a member of the Dodgers, allowing five hits in six scoreless innings and picking up the victory in the Dodgers' 1-0 win. Hill struck out three and did not issue a walk in an 81-pitch outing.
Manager Dave Roberts believes Hill will deliver a quality performance and help the Dodgers continue their march to a fourth straight division title.
“Obviously, we understand what's at stake, and we just want to play good baseball,” Roberts said.
The teams meet four more times after Tuesday's contest. They play one more game at Dodger Stadium and conclude a three-game set on the final weekend of the regular season in San Francisco.
In addition to its bullpen struggles, San Francisco must shake its second-half funk at the plate.
The Giants are hitting .225 with runners in scoring position in the second half, the fourth-lowest average in the majors. San Francisco has produced three hits or fewer with runners in scoring position in 47 of 59 games since the break.