Majors-leading Giants set for first matchup with Dodgers

MLB Baseball

The defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers were supposed to be waging a season-long battle with the San Diego Padres for the National League West crown this season.

The San Francisco Giants weren’t considered to be of the same level as their two California rivals. However, it is the Giants who own the best record in the majors as San Francisco and visiting Los Angeles square off for the first time this season on Friday night.

The streaking Giants (28-16) have won five straight games and 10 of their past 13 heading into the opener of a three-game series. They lead the Padres by one game and the Dodgers by two.

Los Angeles (26-18) also is hot, with eight wins in the past nine games. The Dodgers completed a four-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks with a 3-2 victory on Thursday, and they allowed just six runs in the series.

San Francisco enters the series fresh off a four-game road sweep of the Cincinnati Reds by a cumulative 33-9 score, including a 19-4 walloping on Thursday.

“You don’t expect a 19-run outburst like this,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “This happens once in a blue moon, but I do think it’s an indication that we’re having quality at-bats.”

Brandon Crawford homered and drove in six runs and Steven Duggar hit a grand slam to highlight the season-best assault. Crawford’s homer was his 11th of the season.

Evan Longoria and Darin Ruf also went deep for San Francisco.

The Dodgers gained their sweep of Arizona thanks to Will Smith’s tiebreaking homer in the seventh inning.

However, the more talked-about blast was from Albert Pujols, who smacked a two-run homer in the second. It was his first in four games since joining Los Angeles and the 668th of his career.

“It felt great. Gave our team an early lead right there,” the 41-year-old Pujols said. “Glad to be on this side now, and enjoying the energy.”

Smith was on base when Pujols homered in the second inning. It was a surreal moment for the 26-year-old catcher, who grew up in Kentucky idolizing Pujols.

“That was special, being able to homer in the same game as his first homer with the Dodgers,” Smith said. “Being able to high-five him when he touched home plate, I’ll always remember that.”

Los Angeles sent a signal it views the San Francisco series as highly important when it pushed Trevor Bauer back one day to start on Friday.

The right-hander is 4-2 with a 2.20 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP in nine starts. He is limiting batters to a .146 average — having allowed just 29 hits — and has struck out 77 in 57 1/3 innings.

Bauer, 30, has never faced San Francisco. He spent nearly seven of his nine-plus seasons with the American League’s Cleveland Indians.

Longoria is 0-for-7 vs. Bauer from his time with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Alex Wood (5-0, 1.75 ERA) will start for San Francisco against his former teammates. Wood left Los Angeles as a free agent after last season and signed with the Giants.

“I had seen that they’d be my next start — so I’m excited,” Wood said earlier this week. “They’ll be a great test. They’re a great ballclub. They know me intimately, and I know them pretty intimately too as well. So it’ll be a fun test for us.”

Wood has been superb, allowing no more than two runs in any of his six starts.

The 30-year-old left-hander is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in five career appearances (three starts) vs. the Dodgers. Justin Turner is 3-for-11 with a homer against Wood, and Pujols has gone deep once in three at-bats against him.

–Field Level Media

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