Series preview: Dodgers at Giants

The schedule maker loaded up rivalry games in the early part of the Dodgers’ schedule, with 11 of their first 16 games coming against the San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Dodgers have handled Arizona relatively easily, going 5-0, but their only lost series of the season came to the Giants at Dodger Stadium on opening weekend. They make their first visit to AT&T Park this week looking to carry the momentum from a three-game sweep in Arizona.

It’s not going to be easy, with the sketchy back end of the Dodgers’ pitching rotation thrust in the spotlight. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly could have skipped a fifth starter -- take your pick between Josh Beckett and Paul Maholm -- and used Zack Greinke on normal rest in the series, but he elected to give both Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu an extra day of rest.

Mattingly, no doubt, was mindful of the Dodgers’ lack of open dates in the coming weeks.

Both Beckett (9.00 ERA) and Maholm (8.10 ERA) were hit hard in their first starts. Maholm has been used as a swing man, making three relief appearances, and Beckett is still building up arm strength after injuring his thumb in spring training.

Lucky for the Dodgers, their offense is hot -- especially Adrian Gonzalez, who has homered in four straight games and is slugging .931 in the past seven. They also run into Tim Lincecum coming off an awful start against Arizona, in which he allowed seven runs in four innings. Lincecum traditionally has been tough on the Dodgers, going 9-6 with a 2.94 ERA.

The Dodgers quite likely will get reliever Brian Wilson back Tuesday or Wednesday, but that could set up an awkward roster decision. If they stay at 12 pitchers, they’ll have to option one of their best relievers, Chris Withrow or Paco Rodriguez, or designate Brandon League for assignment. The Dodgers owe League, who has a 5.79 ERA, $14 million between now and 2015.

The Dodgers might wait to see how Beckett does Tuesday before activating Wilson, perhaps returning Beckett to the disabled list if he remains ineffective.

In something of a surprise, the Giants have matched the Dodgers’ firepower thus far this season. The teams enter the series with an identical .751 OPS. Only four National League teams have had more productive lineups.