The Los Angeles Dodgers arrive in San Francisco struggling offensively, their division lead over the Giants has shrunk significantly and they've had virtually no success in Nathan Eovaldi's starts.
As bad as things are going, they could be poised to turn things around in Monday night's series opener given the way Barry Zito has been pitching.
The NL West-leading Dodgers (43-30) have dropped five of the first six contests on their road trip and are just three games up on archrival San Francisco. A sluggish offense that's averaged 2.14 runs and hit .194 in the last seven games has been the biggest culprit, and it seems to be at its worst when Eovaldi (0-3, 2.35 ERA) is on the mound.
Eovaldi has given his team a chance to win all five of his starts, allowing three runs or fewer in each, but Los Angeles has lost them all while backing the rookie right-hander with three total runs of support.
"I know they'll score runs for me," he told the Dodgers' website after allowing three runs and seven hits in six innings in Wednesday's 4-1 loss at Oakland.
That could be the case Monday against Zito (5-5, 4.35), who is mired in anther disastrous stretch for the Giants (40-33).
After opening 5-2 with a 2.98 ERA, the 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner has been shelled for 17 runs and 23 hits over 14 1-3 innings in losing his last three starts.
"Barry's had a tough go here the last three, but you have to keep pressing on,'' manager Bruce Bochy said after the left-hander was tagged for eight runs and nine hits in 3 1-3 innings of Tuesday's 12-5 loss to the Angels. "That's all you can do."
Zito has pitched well against the Dodgers over the past few seasons, but he hasn't received much help from his offense. Since last beating the Dodgers on May 8, 2009, Zito is 0-4 with 2.92 ERA in eight starts, with the Giants plating nine runs for him. San Francisco has lost seven of those games.
The Giants, who were 7 1/2 games back of the Dodgers on May 27, could have pulled within two of first place had they been able to complete a sweep of the Athletics on Sunday. Leading with two outs in the ninth inning, Santiago Casilla served up a three-run homer to Derek Norris as Oakland handed San Francisco a 4-2 defeat, spoiling Matt Cain's bid for a ninth straight win.
"To get walked-off by anyone, it's not a good feeling," Cain said.
Buster Posey hit a two-run homer Sunday - his second in as many games - but is expected to get the day off Monday as Zito usually works with backup Hector Sanchez.
The Giants, who totaled 14 runs in their first two games against the A's, were limited to five hits Sunday and Brandon Belt went 0 for 3, ending a career-high 11-game hitting streak. He hit .441 with four homers, 12 RBIs and a .568 on-base percentage during his run.
Los Angeles' Andre Ethier showed signs that he's emerging from his slump by going 6 for 11 over the weekend after batting .171 in his first 19 June games, but he could have trouble in the opener. He is hitting .182 with seven strikeouts and seven walks in 33 career at-bats against Zito, and is batting .061 (2 for 33) against lefties in his last 16 games.