OAKLAND -- A month ago, this week's Bay Bridge Series looked like it might feature two of the hottest teams in baseball, back when the Giants were 21 games over .500 and the A's not far behind.
"We both were just playing great ball," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said today. "(Now) they're firing on all cylinders. We were, and we blew a gasket, unfortunately."
Still, despite their June swoon, the Giants remain only a half-game behind the Dodgers in the N.L. West, while the A's have catapulted to baseball's best record at 55-33 going into the annual interleague meeting between the two Bay Area teams.
That might generate more outside interest in this four-game series, but locally it's always a fairly big deal. A sign outside the Coliseum parking lot early this afternoon announced that tonight's game is sold out. Fans inside the stadium early are lining the rows behind each dugout, white and green along the third-base line and black and orange down first.
Never miss a local story.
Both managers also said the fact that both teams have played well in the first half lends a little extra something to the series.
"They're clicking on everything -- their pitching, their hitting, scoring runs," Bochy said of the A's. "They're playing great baseball. We're going to have to be on top of our game in this series because they're playing so well."
"It is always a different level of intensity," A's manager Bob Melvin said of the series. "I think with what they've accomplished here the last few years, and we've been pretty good the last couple years too, kind of adds to that. But there's always a certain amount of the rivalry that's prevalent in this type of series."
Here are the lineups for tonight's opener, starting with the visiting Giants behind right-hander Ryan Vogelsong:
And the A's lineup behind right-hander Jesse Chavez:
Injury updates on the Giants side, starting with Pablo Sandoval. Bochy said the third baseman has some swelling in his left elbow where he was hit by a pitch last weekend in San Diego and "can't quite straighten out the elbow. So he's going to need some more time."
Sandoval has told reporters the elbow is "sore," and he was wearing a wrap on it in the clubhouse this afternoon. Bochy said Sandoval is still day-to-day and that his hope is to have Sandoval available to pinch-hit late in tonight's game.
"But it just has not calmed down as much as we'd hoped, or even thought," Bochy said, adding that Sandoval hasn't swung a bat since getting hit by the pitch.
Marco Scutaro, meanwhile, is in the starting lineup at second base tonight for the Fresno Grizzlies, batting second. Bochy said Scutar is "feeling really well right now," and has even talked about rejoining the Giants soon -- though Bochy quashed any notion of that being imminent.
"He needs playing time," Bochy said. "He needs at-bats. He's missed so much time. He's got to play nine innings, he hasn't done that yet."
Bochy said the Giants will have a better idea in the next few days, after Scutaro has played deep into several games, of what the second baseman's timetable might be.
Angel Pagan will report to Arizona to start rehabbing, Bochy said, likely arriving there tomorrow and resuming baseball activities Wednesday.
"We can control it there a little better, and he's all for that," Bochy said.
Bochy said the tentative hope is Pagan could be ready to return soon after the All-Star Break, though there's still no target date. The Giants might have a more concrete idea Wednesday, when Pagan resumes activities.
"He hasn't done anything," Bochy said. "So we really don't know where he's at, how much this epidural has helped him. Come Wednesday, when he starts to do some things, I think we'll have a clearer picture of exactly where we're at."
Lastly, Bochy was asked about Brandon Crawford's recent struggles at the plate -- the shortstop is 5-for-his-last-39, and Bochy said he approached Crawford over the weekend saying he'd like to be able to give Crawford a day off, but that the Giants need Crawford in games for defense.
"He said, 'No, I feel good. I want to play through this,'" Bochy said. "Because of what he does for us up the middle, we need him in the lineup. And he'll get through this. But we are trying to get (his hands) a little bit lower, maybe shorten up his swing a little bit."
Melvin confirmed that Jason Hammel, the other pitcher acquired in the Jeff Samardzija trade with the Cubs over the weekend, will start for the A's on Wednesday. Hammel got to the Bay Area last night and was with the team today, throwing a bullpen session before the game.
Hammel, a right-hander who was 8-5 with a 2.98 ERA in 17 starts this season for the Cubs, today said he was "shocked" by the trade that sent him from the last-place Cubs to the majors-best A's.
"It's something that doesn't come around too often," Hammel said. "This is a good group of guys, I can see that already, and they just want to win. I get that feeling. So that's my game plan, too."
Hammel said coming over with Samardzija, and knowing several A's players including John Jaso and Jim Johnson from his past career stops, has helped ease the transition. He also said he's looking forward to pitching his home games at the Coliseum, a much more pitcher-friendly place than some of his prior home parks.
"I've had Coors Field, I've had Camden Yards, Wrigley Field, all launching pads," said Hammel. "So I welcome the challenge of pitching in an actual fair ballpark."
Brandon Moss is back in the lineup at DH after missing the end of the Blue Jays series with a sprained left ankle. Melvin said Moss showed "big-time improvements today," and the A's feel comfortable putting Moss back in the lineup after his MRI on Sunday came back clean.
Outfielder Josh Reddick was expected to go through a full pre-game regimen today for the first time since hyperextending his knee, including outfield drills and running.
The A's today designated left-hander Brad Mills for assignment to clear a roster spot for Hammel. Mills, acquired after Drew Pomeranz broke his right hand punching a chair, went 1-1 with a 4.41 ERA in three starts for the A's. Melvin said the move with Mills was "another tough one," along with designating Jeff Francis for assignment last week and informing Tommy Milone he was being sent back to Triple-A.
Pomeranz, meanwhile, has been cleared to start catching a ball with his glove hand. So far he has been keeping up strength in his pitching arm, including throwing a simulated game of 65 pitches recently, but has been unable to use the glove hand to catch.
"It's all about him being healthy enough to put a glove on his hand and catch the ball," Melvin said. "So hopefully that goes well today."
Lastly, Melvin was asked how he feels about Yoenis Cespedes wanting to defend his title in the Home Run Derby during the All-Star festivities this year in Minneapolis.
"I think anybody who has somebody in the home-run hitting contest, you're a little nervous based on the amount of swings they take and the fact that they are max-effort swings," Melvin said. "But you're also happy for the fact they're able to compete in it.
"It's his decision, he wants to compete in it. Based on what he did last year, he should. But you're a little nervous, it's natural. But again, it did probably increase some exposure not only for him, but for the club last year."
No word today on whether Josh Donaldson, who yesterday said he also hopes to compete in the Derby but has not made it official, will be asked to do so.