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Phillies, Giants begin series between NL bottom feeders

SAN FRANCISCO -- The two losingest teams in baseball with little but 2018 draft order at stake begin a four-game series Thursday night when the Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants meet at AT&T Park.

Two guys pitching their best ball of the season will square off in the series opener, with the Phillies sending right-hander Aaron Nola against Giants righty Jeff Samardzija.

The Phillies (43-75) are coming off a 3-0 loss at San Diego on Wednesday that capped a three-game sweep. The defeat was the Phillies' 10th in 14 games, further distancing them from the Giants (48-74) in the duel for last place in the National League.

The Phillies won two of three when the clubs met in Philadelphia in June. Neither Nola nor Samardzija pitched in that series.

The No. 7 overall pick of the 2014 draft, Nola (9-7, 3.02 ERA) has faced the Giants just once in his career, and it did not go well. He was bombed for five runs and 10 hits in 3 1/3 innings, yet got no decision, at AT&T Park last season.

Nola has allowed just 13 earned runs in his past 10 starts, a stretch during which he limited all 10 opponents to two earned runs or fewer.

He has been even better since the All-Star break, accumulating the NL's third-best ERA (1.85) in six starts.

Nola will duel new Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval for the first time.

Waived by the Boston Red Sox in July, signed to a minor league deal by the Giants three days later and promoted to the majors earlier this month, Sandoval has hits in eight of his 10 games in his return to the team that he helped win 2010, 2012 and 2014 World Series championships.

He was the only Giant to play in all six games on their just completed trip.

"With Buster (Posey) out, I wanted to keep him in the lineup," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said about Sandoval's start Wednesday at Miami. "His thing is, 'Hey, I've had enough days off this year.'"

Sandoval went 1-for-3 with a walk in San Francisco's 8-1 loss to the Marlins.

Samardzija (7-12, 4.74 ERA) will take the mound Thursday on a nice roll, but with no history of success against the Phillies.

He opened the Giants' 2-4 trip with a 3-1 loss at Washington, which ended his personal three-game winning streak. He has compiled a 3.29 ERA in those four games.

Samardzija has never gone head-to-head with a current member of the Phillies. He has a 1-4 record and a 8.67 ERA in 10 games, including four starts, in his career against Philadelphia.

Like Nola, Samardzija should expect to see an unfamiliar opponent on Thursday night. The Phillies demoted their Wednesday starting pitcher, Nick Pivetta, to Triple-A Lehigh Valley after the loss in San Diego, seeking to create a roster spot for an outfielder for the series against the Giants.

The Phillies are expected to make the promotion announcement before the Thursday game.

Outfield help is needed with Odubel Herrera sidelined due to a hamstring injury.

"I don't have a definite answer for that," manager Pete Mackanin responded when asked if Herrera, who sat out the Phillies' past two games, might be ready by the weekend. "In the meantime, we need a position player."

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