The classic Los Angeles Dodgers-San Francisco Giants rivalry will entertain something of a milestone Sunday when Clayton Kershaw starts his 50th game in the intense matchup.
The Dodgers’ three-time Cy Young Award-winning pitcher has done some of his finest work in the heated duel, posting a 24-13 record with a dominating 1.79 ERA over 352 2/3 innings — the most he’s thrown against any team.
At Dodger Stadium, the site of Sunday’s game, Kershaw is a bit more human, going 10-8 against the Giants with a 2.06 ERA in 25 starts. And he will have to face a Giants team that has scored 19 runs in their past two games in Los Angeles, including an 11-6 victory Saturday.
If Kershaw’s pitching numbers aren’t enough to show how much he thrives in games against the Giants, his only career home run came against San Francisco, too. On Opening Day 2013, he went deep off George Kontos in the eighth inning to break a scoreless tie. The Dodgers won 4-0.
Kershaw (7-3, 2.94 ERA) did not pitch in the Dodgers’ three-game sweep at San Francisco last weekend, starting at Houston on Tuesday instead in a matchup that also had his senses buzzing. The last time he pitched at Houston he was roughed up in the 2017 World Series.
It was later revealed the Astros were stealing opponents’ pitch signs that season. Kershaw did not necessarily deny that it was on his mind in his most recent outing when he held the Astros to one run on four hits over 7 2/3 innings and just 81 pitches in a 9-2 Los Angeles victory.
“I was kind of thinking about it — just like what it felt like being there (Tuesday) and pitching again after the World Series in 2017. And I don’t know,” Kershaw said. “I don’t really know how to express it. It did feel like a little more important game. Maybe that’s just because it was a full crowd.”
Saturday’s game marked the return of Cody Bellinger (leg) and Zach McKinstry (oblique) to the Dodgers’ lineup. Bellinger, the 2019 National League MVP, went 0-for-4 with a run, while McKinstry was 0-for-2. They each struck out twice.
Tasked with facing that Dodgers lineup that has a little more run-scoring potential in it is Giants right-hander Kevin Gausman (5-0, 1.53), one of the National League’s top starters in the early going.
Compared to Kershaw, Gausman has limited experience against his opponent Sunday. He is 0-2 with a 4.44 ERA lifetime against the Dodgers, with four of his five meetings against them over the past two seasons as a member of the Giants.
Gausman has not given up more than one earned run in any of his past seven starts and has delivered consecutive scoreless outings against the Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondbacks. San Francisco is 7-3 in Gausman’s 10 starts this season.
The Giants also got some help off the injured list with first baseman Wilmer Flores activated Saturday following a strained right hamstring. Flores had three hits and scored two runs.
His return was welcome news after both Brandon Belt and Darin Ruf went on the IL in advance of the current series.
“It does improve our bench, and I think it’s a step closer to kind of getting the group back together,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. ” … Every time we activate somebody from the IL,a core piece of our team, somebody that we expected to contribute, it’s encouraging and gets us closer to full strength.”
–Field Level Media