The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers will meet on the shores of McCovey Cove Friday to open up a weekend series that promises to be a good one.
The Giants are fresh off a 3-3 road trip in which they were swept by the San Diego Padres and swept the Arizona Diamondbacks. San Francisco’s starting pitching is still a bit wobbly, but their bullpen has been solid and they averaged nearly five runs per game on the six-game road trip.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, split a four-game series against the Colorado Rookies this week. Hanley Ramirez returned on April 29, and he’s 5-for-9 in three games so far. He leads the Dodgers with a .473 slugging percentage since joining the team via trade in July.
The pitching matchup presents a contrast of different styles.
The Giants will send Barry Zito to the mound while Clayton Kershaw will take the ball for the Dodgers. Zito’s final line comes down to two factors: command and location. If he’s getting ahead of hitters and mixing his array of off-speed pitches, the Dodgers will be kept at bay. Zito has an even bigger edge Friday pitching at AT&T Park, a place he hasn’t yielded a run in this season.
Kershaw does rely on great stuff to dominate too, but he can ramp his fastball up into the mid to high 90’s. Plus, he is no stranger to the friendly pitching confines of AT&T Park. In seven career starts in San Francisco, he’s 5-2 with a 0.66 ERA. Overall, he’s 9-4 with a 1.28 ERA. Most recently, he threw a complete game shutout on Opening Day. Not to mention that he hit a home run in that game as well.
Zito’s numbers aren’t as impressive, as the Giants’ lefty is a lifetime 9-10 with a 3.71 against the Dodgers. Last year, however, he posted a 2.64 ERA against them in five starts.
For the Giants to win they must…
It goes without saying that Zito has very little margin for error. That margin becomes even slimmer if we bring the statistics into play–Kershaw’s lifetime ERA in San Francisco. While it’s not an expectation, the Giants will need a gem from Zito if they want to have any chance at winning with Kershaw on the mound.
Jumping on the board first would be an ideal plan of action for the Giants, who are 11-4 when they score first. Perhaps Kershaw comes out of the gate with a touch of wildness, allowing the Giants to scratch up a run or two. San Francisco’s No. 1 and No. 2 hitters–Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro–have had a bit of success against Kershaw in their respective careers. But really, there aren’t going to be a surplus of scoring opportunities for the Giants.
There’s one player in Los Angeles’s that absolutely kills Zito, and his name is Matt Kemp. Kemp is indeed struggling, but he has a .436 average and three home runs against Zito in 55 career at-bats. That’s dominance, folks.
Since Kemp hasn’t had a 2012-esque start in 2013, Zito will likely attack him. Whether or not the trends come into play, Kemp is due to break out at some point.