In danger of falling back to .500 for the first time in nearly three months, the San Francisco Giants are looking for any kind of a spark. They might get one with a return of one of their top hitters.
Pablo Sandoval is expected to be activated from the disabled list in time to help the Giants try to add to their recent dominance over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday night.
San Francisco (38-37) has kept its head above water for much of this season but six losses in nine games have put the Giants on the verge of dropping to .500 for the first time since they were 3-3 on April 7.
They also dropped three of four to major league-worst Miami in their most recent series and had an eight-game homerless drought until Hunter Pence's solo shot in a 7-2 loss Sunday.
"We need a lift right now," manager Bruce Bochy said.
Bochy's club might get just the boost it needs with Sandoval set to come back from a foot injury. Despite not playing since June 8, the third baseman is tied for second on the team with eight homers and his 37 RBIs are third-most.
Sandoval also homered in each of the final two days on his rehab assignment at Class-A San Jose.
"He's a big bat, presence in the lineup. Hopefully he'll take a little pressure off the other guys trying to do too much," Bochy said. "Any time you're missing a guy that's hitting in the heart of the order it does make it a little tougher. Hopefully he will spark this lineup."
In his return, Sandoval will try to help deny the Dodgers (32-42) their first three-game win streak since a home sweep of Pittsburgh from April 5-7 and lead his team to a sixth consecutive victory in the series.
The Giants will have the right pitcher on the mound in Madison Bumgarner (7-4, 3.25 ERA), who is 3-0 with a 2.37 ERA in his last three starts and hasn't allowed a run in each of his past two against the Dodgers.
He's given up six hits, struck out a combined 16 and walked none during that 16-inning streak, which includes a 3-0 win at Dodger Stadium on April 2.
Bumgarner outdueled Hyun-Jin Ryu (6-3, 2.96) in that game and the rookie left-hander is 0-2 with a 3.65 ERA in his two starts against the Giants. Even stellar performances wouldn't have earned him wins as he was given zero runs of support in both games.
Ryu heads into this start having given up three runs or fewer in seven consecutive outings but had a three-game win streak snapped with a 6-4 defeat at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.
Hanley Ramirez will try to aid Ryu by adding to a torrid stretch. The shortstop is 11 for 22 with three homers and seven RBIs in his last six games and hit a solo shot in Sunday's 3-1 win over San Diego.
"This win was a big one for us. We needed to split the series and build some positive momentum. I'm glad we were able to do that," first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said.
Ramirez, though, is a career .219 hitter against San Francisco - his worst showing against any NL team - and is 1 for 11 all-time versus Bumgarner. Gonzalez, who has homered in back-to-back games, is 2 for 14 against the left-hander.