If there’s one place to be this weekend for the ultimate sports fan it’s AT&T Park, where the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants began a three-game series with sky-high expectations. The Dodgers enter the series with a slight 2.0 game lead over the Giants in the National League West division.
Look no further than the pitching matchups to see the importance of this September series.
Friday; Hyun-Jin Ryu vs. Madison Bumgarner
The Dodgers send Ryu to the mound for the opener, who’s allowed a total of eight runs since Aug.1st. That’s the third best mark in the MLB with a minimum of 20 innings pitched. Ryu is 14-6 with a 3.16 ERA in 2014. Also, Ryu has won four of his last five decisions. He’s 2-1 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts against San Francisco this season.
Bumgarner takes the mound as one of baseball’s best. He’s 17-9 with a 3.02 ERA on the season. On May 9th, Bumgarner beat the Dodgers, allowing just one run over eight innings with eight strikeouts. He’s 2-1 with a 2.41 ERA against Los Angeles in three starts this season.
Saturday; Zack Greinke vs. Tim Hudson
Despite dealing with elbow discomfort earlier this month, Greinke is 2-0 with 2.57 ERA in his last three starts. He’s another 14 game winner for the Dodgers this season, with a 14-8 record and 2.73 ERA. Greinke beat the Giants back on July 25th of this year, when he tossed seven scoreless innings at AT&T Park.
Hudson will be Greinke’s counterpart, a 16-year veteran at the big league level. He’s managed to stay effective, posting a 9-10 record with 3.12 ERA this season. In his last three starts, however, Hudson is 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA. He beat the Dodgers earlier this year and has career 6-4 record with a 3.46 ERA against them.
Sunday; Clayton Kershaw vs. Yusmeiro Petit
Kershaw has been deemed the best pitcher on the planet, by many, and it’s hard to argue against that. He’s 18-3 with a 1.67 ERA and has won four consecutive decisions. Kershaw has posted 0.75 ERA in his last three outings. San Francisco knows what they’re up against it, as Kershaw is 12-5 with a 1.40 ERA in his career against them.
Don’t underestimate Kershaw’s counterpart, though. Petit is coming off one of the best pitching performances of 2014, where he tossed a complete game on just 84 pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He’s now 2-0 with a 3.79 ERA in his last three starts, and 5-3 with a 3.62 ERA on the season. In 31.2 innings against Los Angeles, Petit has gone 1-3 with a 4.83 ERA in his career.
The Dodgers might have the best pitcher on the planet but the Giants have the best hitter on the planet, at least, for the moment. Buster Posey is hitting .472 in the month of September and .359 since the All-Star break. He’s the main reason San Francisco’s just 2.0 games behind Los Angeles headed into the weekend. The former MVP is playing the part and will be the key for the Giants in this series.
Los Angeles is still waiting for Yasiel Puig to break out of a month long slump. And AT&T Park might be a good place for that to happen, considering it’s the last place where Puig wasn’t slumping. He tripled three times there in one game back on July 25th. Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford have picked up his slack, though. Kemp will enter the weekend with an MLB-best 16 game hitting streak, Crawford is hitting .434 over the past month and Gonzalez hit four homers and drove in 10 runs during the Dodgers recent homestand.
This isn’t the Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees, its better. It’s southern California against northern California, the Los Angeles Dodgers against the San Francisco Giants. It’s September but feels a lot like October.