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Giants rely on bullpen and go for 4-game sweep of Cubs

MLB: Houston Astros at San Francisco GiantsJune 11, 2024; San Francisco, California, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Jordan Hicks (12) during the game against the Houston Astros at Oracle Park. Mandatory credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco Giants will face their first four-game home stretch against the Chicago Cubs since 2012 when the clubs conclude their rematch series Thursday afternoon.

After losing two of three in Chicago last week, the Giants have pulled off some surprisingly strong pitching, winning the first three games of the series 5-4, 5-1 and 4-3.

The Giants played without traditional starting pitchers in the first two games of the series, then used four of the same relievers to pick up starter Hayden Birdsong after he was thrown out in the fifth inning of Wednesday’s victory.

Luke Jackson, Erik Miller, Tyler Rogers and Camilo Doval all pitched for the second time in the series, shutting out the Cubs with three hits over the final 4 1/3 innings after Birdsong was eliminated in a 3-3 tie.

In a one-run game, San Francisco’s bullpen was involved in a pair of rally killing plays that helped matters. Jackson picked Christopher Morel off first base after leading off the sixth with a walk. Tyler Rogers caught Ian Happ leaning the wrong way at second with two on and two outs in the eighth, nailing the runner at third to end the threat.

After lamenting his team’s inability to make such plays earlier this season, Giants manager Bob Melvin came away from the victory on Wednesday hoping his guys had turned a defensive corner.

“They were huge,” Melvin said. “We’re trying to get better at it. Lately it’s been a struggle for us, those extra bases and easy bases. So to get a couple (outs) today, both were big.”

Jordan Hicks (4-4, 3.24) will start for the Giants on Thursday and hopes to give his bullpen some rest. Hicks was one of only two healthy starting pitchers on San Francisco’s roster until Birdsong was promoted from Triple-A on Wednesday and made his Major League debut.

Hicks threw five shutout innings as the Giants opened the series in Chicago with a 7-6 win on Monday, improving his lifetime record against the Cubs to 2-1 with a 2.88 ERA in 19 games (18 relief appearances).

The right-hander wasn’t nearly as sharp in his last start when he lost 9-4 to the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday, allowing five runs in four innings.

In an effort to avoid their second five-game losing streak of the season, the Cubs are expected to counter with left-hander Shota Imanaga (7-2, 2.96).

Like Hicks, the 30-year-old rookie hopes to put a poor effort in the rearview mirror. Last Friday he gave up ten runs in more than three innings against the New York Mets.

Imanaga said he experimented with pacing early instead of putting everything into each inning.

“It’s more of lowering the output, lowering the intensity so I can keep it going throughout the game,” Imanaga said of his reduced fastball velocity against the Mets. “And I would say going forward I just have to make an adjustment in how I do that.”

Imanaga has never faced the Giants.

–Field-level media