LOS ANGELES — After playing four different positions for the Giants during the final two months of the regular season, former Cubs star Kris Bryant will play at another new spot in Game 3 of the NLDS on Monday at Dodger Stadium.
With Dodgers ace Max Scherzer pitching for Los Angeles, Bryant will start at first base for a Giants team that enters Game 3 of a best-of-five series that’s tied 1-1.
Bryant has appeared in 28 career games at first base including 12 this season with the Cubs before he was traded to San Francisco.
Giants manager Gabe Kapler is expected to address the decision during a pregame press conference on Monday, but one of the main factors behind the move is likely Wilmer Flores’ 0-for-17 career mark against Scherzer. Flores started at first base in each of the first two games of the division series, but with awful numbers against the Dodgers starter, the Giants opted to move Bryant to the infield and send another left-handed bat in Steven Duggar to the outfield.
One of the more surprising elements behind the decision to play Bryant at first base is that with Brandon Belt out due to injury, LaMonte Wade Jr. has often been the Giants’ first baseman. The Giants have played Bryant in left field with Wade over at first, but they’ve elected to send Wade out to left field and use Bryant in the infield Monday behind starting pitcher Alex Wood.
Wade is a better defender than Bryant in the outfield and it’s possible Bryant, who is 6-foot-5, has more range in the infield than Wade which could be important for a Giants team that expects Wood will induce a lot of groundballs against the Dodgers.
With Belt sidelined due to a fractured left thumb, the Giants chose Bryant, who is 2-for-16 in his career against Scherzer, over Flores and Darin Ruf, who took groundballs at the position during a team workout at Dodger Stadium on Monday. Bryant went 3-for-3 in Game 1 of the NLDS and hit a home run against Walker Buehler, but the 2016 National League MVP went 0-for-4 in the Giants’ Game 2 loss.
After the Giants used one of their weakest possible defensive alignments in the outfield in Game 2 by sending Ruf to left field, starting Bryant in center and asking Austin Slater to play right field, the team has its best possible defensive alignment in the outfield for Game 3.
With Wade in left field and Mike Yastrzemski in right field, Steven Duggar will make his first start of the series in center field on Monday. He’ll hit eighth.
The Dodgers are also using a different lineup on Monday as future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols will start at first base against the left-handed Wood while Cody Bellinger, who has played both center field and first base in the series, will be available off the bench.
Here’s the full Giants lineup:
Tommy La Stella – 2B
Mike Yastrzemski – RF
Buster Posey – C
Brandon Crawford – SS
Kris Bryant – 1B
LaMonte Wade Jr – LF
Evan Longoria – 3B
Steven Duggar – CF
Alex Wood – LHP