For just the 10th time overall and the first time since 2008, the Giants and Royals will go head to head on Friday as the second-place squads begin a weekend series at Kauffman Stadium.
San Francisco enters the set having dropped two of three to the Brewers at Miller Park. Kansas City finished a sweep of Arizona on Thursday night.
Madison Bumgarner, the Giants' Friday starter, wasn't in the Major Leagues the last time these two teams met. His Interleague numbers are average -- he has a 4-4 record to go along with a 4.41 ERA.
Bumgarner, a 6-foot-5 southpaw, has pitched incredibly well on the road, notching a 1.58 ERA. Never has he been better than in his last start at Citi Field.
Against the Mets on Sunday, Bumgarner looked completely at ease, finishing with a two-hit shutout as he bounced back from a rough outing against the Pirates.
Bumgarner struck out 10 and, more importantly, delivered first-pitch strikes to 24 of the 30 batters the Mets sent to the plate.
"Being able to get ahead and throw strike one and get some quick outs with the fastball made the difference," Bumgarner said of that outing.
Kansas City will counter with Jason Vargas, who insists he isn't feeling any lingering effects from an appendectomy that kept him off the mound for about a month.
He didn't look his best in his last outing, against the A's, when he allowed seven runs off seven hits in 5 1/3 innings. He labored through an eight-run fifth inning.
"Left some balls up, we didn't play defense and that's what happens. It unraveled," Vargas said. "Just as a whole, we weren't good in the fifth inning. That's what it comes down to."
Vargas is 0-1 with a 3.00 ERA in two career starts against San Francisco.
The Royals have been hot against the National League this year, posting a 10-4 record entering their penultimate Interleague series. The Giants are 7-5 against American League teams.
Giants: Club has decision to make with Bumgarner
Manager Bruce Bochy will have a tough call to make Friday as the Giants play under the AL's rules in Kansas City.
Should he let Bumgarner bat instead of a designated hitter?
For most clubs, the decision would be automatic, but it becomes difficult when there's a pitcher with a knack for hitting the occasional homer, like Bumgarner. In just 49 at-bats. the right-handed-hitting Bumgarner has three home runs, including a pair of grand slams.
If Bochy decides to take the bat out of Bumgarner's hands, it's likely that Michael Morse would serve as the DH.
Royals: No concern about short bench
After three games at Arizona under National League rules, the Royals return home for more Interleague Play. This time, though, the games will be played under AL rules with a short bench.
Kansas City operated with four bench players at Arizona, but with the designated hitter back in the lineup, they'll be down to three on Friday night against the Giants. Unless, of course, they make a move.
The Royals are carrying 13 pitchers instead of the usual 12. Add the nine players in the lineup and there are three position players left including backup catcher Erik Kratz.
"We'll go like we always go, just manage it day to day," manager Ned Yost said. "If you bring up another bench player, somebody's got to go. What moves do we have to make?"
Indeed, there are no longer easily shipped-out pitchers on the roster -- no Michael Mariot or Louis Coleman, for example. Those spots have been filled by veterans such as Jason Frasor and Scott Downs.
With deals now possible after players clear waivers, something could happen to add a bench player, but Yost is not concerned.
"In case you haven't noticed, we've been doing pretty good with what we've got," he said.
• Kansas City leads the all-time series, 6-3.
• Before his Aug. 3 shutout against the Mets, Bumgarner had not recorded double-digit strikeouts in 12 starts. Before that, he notched 10 during two straight contests (May 25 vs. Minnesota and May 30 at St. Louis).
Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.