Giants ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner starts for the Giants on Thursday seeking a series sweep, which provides Dodgers manager Don Mattingly a built-in explanation for which outfielders he will start.
Mattingly continues his thorny daily dilemma as he squeezes four prominent outfielders, along with a budding power hitter, into three outfield positions.
For Bumgarner, Mattingly indicated he was leaning toward an all-right-handed trio of Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Scott Van Slyke, with left-handers Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford on the bench.
With that alignment against Bumgarner on April 5, Puig went 1-for-3, Kemp 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and Van Slyke 1-for-2 with a walk and two runs scored. The Dodgers lost that game, 7-2.
Bumgarner not only gives the Dodgers plenty to think about when he occupies the pitcher's mound, he also has proven capable of causing just as much concern in the batter's box.
Bumgarner generated his own offensive support in his most recent outing, a 6-5 Giants victory over Colorado last Friday. The left-hander worked six innings and yielded four earned runs for the first time in 22 starts, dating back to last June 1 at St. Louis. But Bumgarner compensated by hitting his third career home run -- a grand slam -- and hoisting a sacrifice fly.
"I'm always trying to swing hard in case I run into something," Bumgarner said. "Fortunately for me and us, I happened to run into a couple today."
Bumgarner became the only Giants pitcher besides Shawn Estes (May 24, 2000) to hit a grand slam since the franchise moved to San Francisco in 1958. With his five RBIs, Bumgarner also tied the mark for most RBIs in a game by a Giants pitcher since 1914 (Estes, 2000; Dave Koslo, 1949; Hal Schumacher, 1934; Jack Scott, 1926).
"They don't really expect a whole lot out of pitchers, so we get to go up there with no pressure," Bumgarner said. "It's easier to hit that way but, at the same time, it's the hardest thing to do in sports."
Bumgarner has thrived against the Dodgers, posting a 9-3 record with a 2.63 ERA in 13 lifetime appearances against them. The left-hander added a win to those totals on April 5, when he allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings and struck out 10 at Dodger Stadium in a 7-2 Giants victory.
Dodgers: Jansen still the closer
Mattingly didn't waver in his support of closer Kenley Jansen, who has blown two of six save opportunities this year, including Tuesday night.
"He showed in Arizona [after the previous blown save] that he bounces right back," said Mattingly. "The only thing we worry about is usage. But I don't see a difference in his mentality or demeanor. He's still challenging hitters."
Mattingly also defended Brandon League, who took the Tuesday night loss.
"It's about execution, not if his stuff is good enough," Mattingly said. "He's got to get ahead in the count. They're going to put the ball in play against him, you just hope we're playing them right."
League has a guaranteed contract through the 2015 season and Mattingly said he's going to use him.
"We've got X amount of guys on the staff and we've got to use the guys," he said. "If you don't, you're going short and somebody else pays. We expect him to hold up his end of the bullpen, and I think he will. We're not giving up on the guy."
Giants: Bullpen's baker's dozen not too filling -- yet
Activating left-hander Jeremy Affeldt from the 15-day disabled list and optioning outfielder Juan Perez to Triple-A Fresno on Wednesday left the Giants with a 13-man pitching staff and a bench -- more like a stool -- consisting of four position players.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he intends to correct this imbalance once San Francisco's starters begin pitching deeper into ballgames. But when that will happen is anybody's guess.
Entering Wednesday, the Giants played extra innings in three of their previous five games. This partly explained why relievers worked 19 2/3 innings in that span and 24 2/3 innings in the last six games. That includes a season-high seven innings in Tuesday night's 3-2, 12-inning win over the Dodgers.
That kind of workload tends to burn out even the best of bullpens. But disaster hasn't struck the Giants yet. Their bullpen took a 1.89 ERA, second-lowest in the Major Leagues, into Wednesday's game.
• The two teams have combined to go 0-for-8 with the bases loaded in the first two games of the series.
• The Giants bullpen has allowed two runs in 28 2/3 innings on the homestand.
• Adrian Gonzalez extended his hitting streak to 11 games Wednesday.