Two teams struggling to keep pace in the National League wild-card race will send rookie left-handers to the mound when the Cincinnati Reds and host San Francisco Giants open a key three-game series Monday night.
The Reds are coming off three losses in four games in Arizona, while the Giants have lost seven consecutive series, three at home, as the clubs hope to start in a positive direction in the standings with five weeks remaining in the regular season.
The Giants (67-63) begin the week tied with the Reds (68-64) in the chase for the NL's three wild-card spots, both trailing the Diamondbacks by 1 1/2 games, the Chicago Cubs by two and the Philadelphia Phillies by five.
The Giants enter Monday's game after an 8-5 home win over the Atlanta Braves on Sunday. Patrick Bailey's bases-clearing double in the fifth inning was the key blow of the victory, which came after the Braves had won the first two games of the series.
In fact, the Giants have lost the past five series openers as their schedule has stiffened with series against the Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays, Phillies and Braves twice.
"We're just trying to stay positive," Bailey said after the win. "We just gotta do what we did today. Next guy up. Nobody has to be a hero. When we're playing well, that's what we're doing. We need to keep it rolling and hopefully make the playoffs."
The Giants and Reds split a four-game series in Cincinnati in July. Reds rookie Andrew Abbott (8-3, 3.16 ERA), who will start Monday night's game, had the best outing of his 15-game big-league career in the series finale, a 5-1 win, shutting out the Giants on one hit over a season-best eight innings.
The 24-year-old will go for a repeat riding the momentum of being 2-0 in his past three starts, limiting the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Guardians and Los Angeles Angels to a total of seven runs in 14 2/3 innings.
The Giants figure to have reinforcements waiting for the Reds, with outfielders Mitch Haniger and Mike Yastrzemski getting the green light to be activated after landing on the injured list with hamstring strains.
San Francisco will counter Abbott with its prized rookie, Kyle Harrison (0-0, 5.40), who wasn't with the big-league club during the visit to Cincinnati.
The 22-year-old made his major-league debut last Tuesday in Philadelphia, allowing two runs in 3 1/3 innings in an eventual 4-3 loss. He did not get a decision after striking out five.
Harrison originally was scheduled to pitch the series finale against the Braves, but Giants manager Gabe Kapler elected to push him back a day to avoid facing an Atlanta team that has dominated left-handers this year.
Instead, Harrison will face a Reds team that could be exhausted after a tense series against Arizona in which the first three games were decided by a total of four runs before the Diamondbacks took the finale 5-2 on Sunday to win the series.
Graham Ashcraft, the Reds' starting pitcher Sunday, tried to retain a positive attitude as he and his teammates packed their backs for the flight to San Francisco.
"It's a big series," he said of the disappointment in Arizona, "but there's still a lot of games left. We just have to keep trucking."
—Field Level Media