Major League Baseball’s seemingly most competitive season series will continue Sunday when the host San Francisco Giants go for a third straight win against the Milwaukee Brewers.

A two-out, two-strike balk on Milwaukee reliever Jandel Gustave in the eighth inning produced the winning run Saturday after the teams had split a pair of games to open the four-game series. The Brewers won Thursday in extra innings, and the Giants rebounded Friday in a walk-off.

Throw in a 4-2 Giants win at Milwaukee in April, a game that went to the ninth inning tied, and all four games of the season series have been in doubt in the ninth, usually until the final pitch.

Such was the case again Saturday, when the Brewers’ Willy Adames reached second with no outs in the ninth on an infield single and an errant pickoff by Giants reliever Dominic Leone, trailing 2-1. But Adames got no farther, with Leone getting a popout, a groundout and a game-ending strikeout with the potential tying run in scoring position.

Afterward, Giants slugger Darin Ruf, who was standing at second base at the time of the balk, credited a sold-out crowd as having prevented Gustave from getting the pitch call from the catcher.

Mike Yastrzemski, the hero of Friday’s game with a walk-off grand slam, credited a change in the Giants’ fortunes — they had been 11-19 in one-run games — as making the difference.

“It’s nice to win some of these close games,” Yastrzemski said. “We’ve had some heartbreakers this year where we’ve lost by one run when we’ve been in the game. It’s nice to just be on the winning side of that.”

Brewers All-Star closer Josh Hader, who gave up three homers — including the walk-off — in a six-run ninth Friday, noted Saturday he’d like nothing better than to get a chance to avenge himself on Sunday.

“I feel like I’m trying to feel things I don’t need to and I lost the aggressiveness that I normally have,” he explained of his recent slump. “So it’s just little things. I’ve just got to move on and bring it (Sunday).”

In a series dominated by starting pitching, Brewers manager Craig Counsell announced Saturday that he would substitute left-hander Aaron Ashby for San Francisco Bay Area native Jason Alexander to give his team the best chance to avoid taking a losing streak into the All-Star break.

Ashby (2-6, 4.37 ERA), who will pitch on three days’ rest, has gone 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA in his past two starts, limiting the Pittsburgh Pirates and Minnesota Twins to a total of three runs in 9 1/3 innings.

The 24-year-old has never faced the Giants and will make just the second West Coast start of his two-year career. He faced the San Diego Padres in May, holding them to an unearned run and four hits in 5 2/3 innings. The Brewers won 2-1, but Ashby took a no-decision.

Ashby will go against Giants ace Logan Webb (8-3, 2.82), who has pitched brilliantly in his past six starts, going 3-1 with a 1.13 ERA. He was especially good in his most recent outing on Tuesday when, shortly after learning he hadn’t made the National League All-Star team, he blanked the Arizona Diamondbacks over six innings on five hits in a 13-0 home win.

The 25-year-old has faced the Brewers just twice in his career and contained them both times, allowing two runs and seven hits in 13 innings. He didn’t get a decision in either game despite a 1.38 ERA.

–Field Level Media