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Giants-Dodgers series has the makings of a classic

Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw are scheduled to pitch in the upcoming Giants-Dodgers series and each pitcher is at his best against his in-state rivals. Getty Images

LOS ANGELES -- Getting no-hit twice in less than 10 days is no way to enter your biggest series of the season, but the Los Angeles Dodgers have been pitching pretty well themselves lately. And when they play the San Francisco Giants, nobody really expects a lot of action in the batter’s box anyway.

The center of attention is usually the pitcher’s mound, particularly when Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Madison Bumgarner all are scheduled to pitch.

“We’ll be ready,” Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said minutes after the Chicago Cubs’ Jake Arrieta held him and the rest of his teammates without a hit on “Sunday Night Baseball.” The Dodgers, missing right-handed sock with Yasiel Puig and Howie Kendrick on the disabled list, aren’t exactly casting a menacing presence in the batter’s box lately.

Mike Fiers, who had never pitched in the ninth inning previously, no-hit them on Aug. 21 in Houston. The Dodgers didn’t score a single run in the last series Bumgarner appeared against them.

But the Giants, beset by injuries, have been shutout four times this month and haven’t been able to make up ground in the NL West race. They go into tonight’s opener of a pivotal three-game series trailing by four games in the loss column. This is their only opportunity to make up ground head-to-head until the final week of September.

“Big series,” Greinke said.

What makes it particularly intriguing, though the hitters in the series might choose a different word, is that each of the teams’ front-line starting pitchers is particularly lethal against their rival. Bumgarner is 13-5 with a 2.34 ERA in 19 games against the Dodgers. Kershaw is 14-7 with a 1.63 ERA in 29 games against the Giants. Greinke, the relative newcomer, is 6-0 with a 2.28 ERA in eight games vs. S.F.

Given those measly numbers, what happened Sunday night at Dodger Stadium and the fact that the Dodgers held their opponents to two runs or fewer in all but one game last week, one would expect runs to be at a premium over the next three days. Of course, baseball rarely follows the script.

If the hitters are going to make their mark in this pennant race, tonight is probably the night to do it, with Jake Peavy (4-6, 4.21 ERA) and Brett Anderson (8-8, 3.36 ERA) on the mound. Then again, Peavy is 7-1 with a 2.83 ERA at Dodger Stadium and he and Anderson both can claim to be big-game pitchers. Anderson quietly has had his healthiest, most impressive season since his rookie year. Anderson is on pace to pitch 189 innings, which would be a career high.

Anderson described tonight’s start as his biggest since the 2012 playoffs, when he held the Detroit Tigers to two hits over six scoreless innings for the Oakland A’s.

“We’ve still got quite a bit of time left and you try to treat it like any other start, but you say that now and then when you get out there, you get amped up and the crowd will be amped up and kind of crazy,” Anderson said. “But that’s one of the reasons why I signed with the Dodgers is to pitch in games like this. It’s kind of funny that I’m leading that series off, but I’ll take it. I’m excited to be healthy at this point and go out there and try to prove why they signed me as well.”

Tonight’s game isn’t must-win for the Giants, but taking it is certainly their heavy preference. Kershaw and Greinke, who have pitched back-to-back most of the season, only get beat in consecutive games about once a year. The Houston Astros pulled it off earlier this month. The previous time was in August of 2014.

Kershaw is on one of his rolls. In his last 11 starts, he has a 0.95 ERA, 105 strikeouts and eight walks. Greinke just keeps marching through a charmed season. He leads the NL in ERA (1.61), WHIP (0.85) and quality starts (24).

The Dodgers could easily survive any outcome but a three-game sweep, while the Giants need to make up ground with just 32 games left in their season. They have beaten the Dodgers nine times in 12 head-to-head meetings so far, a trend they likely will have to continue to reach the post-season. The Dodgers struggled early against San Francisco last season, too, but flipped the script at the end, winning seven of the last nine head-to-head games.

These teams don’t need the playoffs as a motivator to play hard against one another. Their fans don’t need it to be September to pack the stadium. When it all comes together, though, things tend to be electric in these series.

“Any time you face the Giants, it’s a big game just because of the rivalry,” Anderson said, “but at this time of the season it means a little bit more.”