The San Francisco Giants have their ace, Madison Bumgarner, positioned to pitch twice as they embark on what, for all intents and purposes, is a must-sweep homestand when they open a four-game series against the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night.
With just three weeks remaining in the regular season, the Giants find themselves with the unenviable task of having to pass five teams and make up 7 1/2 games in order to earn the second wild-card playoff berth in the National League.
San Francisco does have an advantage over the others, however. They get a seven-game homestand this week against two of the three teams with the worst records in the NL since the All-Star break -- the Pirates and Miami Marlins.
Bumgarner (9-8, 3.81) is scheduled to pitch the series opener against a Pirates team that, surprisingly, has given him problems in the past. The left-hander has gone just 3-5 with a 3.22 ERA in eight career regular-season starts against them, including taking the loss in Pittsburgh in April, 4-1.
The Giants have tentatively scheduled Bumgarner, who has lost just once in his last 14 starts, to pitch again Saturday against Miami.
It's also possible, if all goes well, that Johnny Cueto will start twice this week for the Giants. He has been listed as the probable starter Tuesday against the Pirates in his 2019 debut following Tommy John surgery.
It's one at a time for the Giants, who need every possible win, and definitely so for Cueto, who suffered a setback in his rehab earlier this season when his back stiffened.
"I feel like I'm 19 years old," he gushed to reporters after getting his Tuesday assignment. "For me, this is like spring training. I've got to make sure I execute my pitches and everything is right."
The Giants appear to catch another break in the Pirates' pitching alignment. Impressive rookie James Marvel, who debuted Sunday in a 2-0 loss to St. Louis, is not scheduled to pitch again until the club gets to Chicago at the end of its weeklong trip.
Marvel, a San Francisco Bay Area native whose mother, Julie, worked for the Golden State Warriors, was overjoyed to see his dad, John, in the stands in Pittsburgh on Sunday. It wasn't the type of day that his dad, an executive for the NFL Network, could ask to get off.
"When we found out I was pitching on Sunday," James Marvel informed reporters Sunday, "my dad said, 'Well, I'll be there. I might lose my job, but I'll be there.'"
Marvel expected a hero's welcome upon arriving in San Francisco on Sunday night from family and friends, even though he won't even pitch in the series.
"Just hearing what everybody individually had to say to me makes me realize -- and I knew this before -- that I didn't get here alone," he said before leaving Pittsburgh. "All the people that have loved and supported me and have just poured an incredible amount of effort into my career ... those moments were incredible."
The Pirates are scheduled to pitch right-hander Trevor Williams (7-6, 5.16) in the series opener.
The 27-year-old has pitched well in his last three starts, going 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA, and has enjoyed two brilliant outings in San Francisco in his career, allowing one run in 13 innings.
He's 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA in three career starts against the Giants.
--Field Level Media