One of baseball's best and oldest rivalries resumes Monday night as the Los Angeles Dodgers open a three-game series against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. The longtime nemeses are separated by just three games in the standings in the National League West, and figure to battle for divisional supremacy — along with the Arizona Diamondbacks — for the rest of the season.
The Dodgers held a five and a half game lead in the division when Matt Kemp was placed on the disabled list on May 31 for the second time this season with a left hamstring strain. Since then the Dodgers have gone just 11-12, dragged down by a 6-9 mark in interleague play.
The two teams have only met once this season, as the Dodgers took two of three games against the Giants at Dodger Stadium from May 7-9. They played three series against one another by May 19 last year. That means the Dodgers have 15 games remaining against the Giants, and though Dodgers manager Don Mattingly didn't discount the upcoming series in San Francisco he did downplay its importance, especially since the season isn't even half over.
"There will be another monumental series, and another monumental series, and another one with those guys. And there will be a bunch of monumental series in between. They're all big. Every game you play is an important game," Mattingly said. "To start thinking that this game is going to direct the season, you can build it up all you want and that's fine, but we have to to be ready to play baseball."
The Dodgers come into the series reeling a bit, having lost five of their last six games, hitting a paltry .180/.228/.238 with just 13 runs scored during that span. That included a three-game sweep by the Athletics last week in Oakland, which may have affected Mattingly's opinion of Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
But Mattingly said he was looking forward to playing the rival Giants, especially at AT&T Park.
"I do like that atmosphere, a lot better than Oakland. Oakland is dead. That place has got some juice," Mattingly said. "It's almost like a Boston. You kind of feel that Boston/New York thing with the Dodgers and Giants, especially in San Francisco."
The Dodgers will miss Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner in this series, which opens with a pitching matchup between Nathan Eovaldi and Barry Zito on Monday night. But the Giants pitching staff will still be a tough battle for the Dodgers, especially since they have averaged 3.69 in their last 23 games without Kemp, hitting .231/.306/.310 during that span with just six home runs as a team.
Clayton Kershaw pitches Tuesday for the Dodgers, hoping to build on his 1.34 ERA against the Giants in 13 games, including 12 starts. In San Francisco Kershaw has been better, allowing just three runs (two earned) in six games for a 0.45 ERA. He has allowed just one unearned run in his last four starts at AT&T Park, with 32 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings.
These two teams split 18 games last season, with each team winning five of nine at home. The Dodgers have a 56-52 all-time record at AT&T Park, which opened in 2000. In the last four years, the Giants are 19-17 at home against the Dodgers, with neither team winning more than five of nine games in San Francisco during that span.
Monumental? Maybe not, but the next three days in San Francisco should provide some good baseball from two bitter rivals.
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