San Francisco Giants face big series against Oakland Athletics

As the Giants return to the Bay Area to conclude interleague play with a three-game series at Oakland, they hit a bit of a crossroads.

The A’s are the only team currently with a losing record that the Giants will face prior to the All-Star break.

And the A’s aren’t exactly struggling right now either. They just swept the Dodgers, holding L.A. to two runs in three games. Oakland has won eight of their last nine to push their record to 33-36.

To make matters worse for the Giants, they haven’t won a game in Oakland since Randy Johnson was their starting pitcher — in 2009.

They’ve dropped their past six on the east side of the Bay.

The key to winning in Oakland this weekend? Score more runs.

OK, that seems a bit obvious. But if you look back at this series, the Giants have won their last seven games in Oakland, dating back to 2004, when they’ve scored four runs or more.

When they score three runs or fewer in Oakland, they are 1-20 dating all the way back to 1997. By comparison, in all of their games this season when the Giants score 3 or fewer runs, they are 9-20.

In their past six games in Oakland, they scored a total of six runs.

The key to the Giants’ low-scoring in the Coliseum is two fold. One, it’s a tough park to hit in with its deep, high outfield walls and roomy foul territory.

The other factor? Really good Oakland pitchers.

The A’s will throw some good arms at the Giants … young, but good arms. It starts Friday when Jarrod Parker takes the mound.

Parker had one of his worst outings of the season against the Giants on May 18 when he gave up six runs on four hits and four walks in two innings.

In two of his 10 starts, he’s been tagged for six runs. In his other eight, he has not allowed more than two.

Counter that against Tim Lincecum, who will pitch for the Giants. Lincecum has allowed two runs or fewer in only three of his 14 starts.

The key for Parker will be throwing strikes. When his walk count goes up, that’s when he gets into trouble. Lucky for him, taking walks is something the Giants have not been prone to do.

The Giants have not draw more than three walks in a game since June 12, a stretch of eight games. The Giants are 3-5 in those games.

Saturday’s game brings a more favorable pitching matchup for the Giants, when Madison Bumgarner takes on Tyson Ross.

Ross has 2-6 record with a 6.11 ERA (so Lincecum isn’t the only starting pitcher in this series with a 6+ ERA).

The Giants beat Ross on May 19 in one of his better outings, when he gave up two runs on seven hits and four walks in six innings. The Giants won 4-0.

Sunday’s game features Matt Cain (9-2, 2.34 ERA) vs. Brandon McCarthy (6-3, 2.54 ERA). McCarthy has walked just 19 batters in 12 starts this season.

If the over/under on the number of walks the Giants will draw on Sunday is 1, take the under.

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