The Los Angeles Dodgers don’t have to look much further than their poor record against San Francisco to understand why they trail the Giants by 1 1/2 games for the NL West lead.
It’s part of the reason manager Don Mattingly specifically aligned his rotation for his top three pitchers to face the rivals in a crucial series that begins Friday night in San Francisco.
Zack Greinke (11-6, 2.90 ERA) will get the call in the opener, followed by Clayton Kershaw on Saturday and Hyun-jin Ryu on Sunday as the Dodgers (56-47) look to improve their 3-7 mark against the Giants (57-45).
"I don’t want to downplay it," Mattingly told MLB’s official website. "We’re set to take on the team we bump heads with. It’s nice to have the best guys, but it’s not like you win this series and you’ve got (the division title). Nobody will think it’s over.
"We try to win every series. We want to win the division."
So does San Francisco, which had won six of seven before dropping Thursday’s series finale with Philadelphia 2-1. The Giants went 5-2 on their road trip and feel confident heading back to AT&T Park, where they’ve won four of the last five meetings with the Dodgers.
”We’ve got a big series ahead of us," manager Bruce Bochy said. "It’s going to be a good, exciting series. It’s what you play for.”
San Francisco has a tough task ahead of it trying to solve Los Angeles’ starters beginning with Greinke, who has won both starts with a 2.77 ERA and 16 strikeouts over 13 innings against the Giants this season.
Greinke struggled Saturday against St. Louis, though, giving up four runs and walking a season-worst five in 5 2-3 innings of a 4-2 defeat. Greinke, whose strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.81 ranks fifth in the NL, issued five walks over his previous six starts.
The right-hander allowed each run in the first inning against the Cardinals after giving up two in the first of a 4-1 loss to Detroit on July 9 in his previous outing.
”It feels like the last two months, the first inning is always the toughest,” Greinke said. ”I need to find a way to be better right from the get-go.”
Saturday’s contest didn’t go well for Yasiel Puig, either, as he was hit on the hand and hasn’t started in any of the four games since. Puig took batting practice Wednesday, and Mattingly said he could be ready to go against the Giants.
The same can’t be said for Hanley Ramirez, who was hit in the hand Sunday and has missed the last three. It’s unclear when he’ll be healthy, but the addition of Puig could be a boost as he’s 5 for 10 lifetime off Giants starter Tim Lincecum.
The right-hander will get the nod after recording his first career save in a 9-6, 14-inning win over the Phillies on Tuesday. Lincecum (9-6, 3.65) has gone 4-1 with a 0.96 ERA over his last five starts, a stretch that began with a no-hitter against San Diego on June 25.
Lincecum gave up one run in five innings of a 3-2, 12-inning win over the Dodgers on April 15 in his only start against them this season.
Bochy’s decision to pitch Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson immediately following the All-Star break has left the Giants with the back end of their rotation for this series.
Bochy, though, isn’t going to dwell on that now with each contest during the stretch run of the season having an affect on the division race.
"I don’t know what’s not a big game," Bochy said.