Few rivalries in any sport these days are as fierce as the one between the Giants and the Dodgers, and that intense feud resumes Friday night by the Bay.
Coming off a World Series title in 2012, the Giants saw their arch nemesis embark on a spending spree in an attempt to dethrone the reigning champs. But the 2013 Dodgers looked very much like the old guard in dropping two of three to San Francisco to open the season.
Los Angeles looks to return the favor this weekend, sending ace Clayton Kershaw (3-2, 1.73 ERA) to the hill to open the series.
Kershaw will be pitching with a heavy heart after he was placed on the bereavement list Monday to mourn the loss of his father. Kershaw flew home to Texas during the week, but he'll return to the club in time to pitch on Friday.
The 25-year-old southpaw has owned the Giants in the past, with a 9-4 record and a 1.28 ERA in 18 outings. That mark includes Opening Day this season, when Kershaw tossed a shutout and hit the go-ahead home run.
Fellow left-hander Barry Zito will be making his fourth home start of the season for the Giants. He pitched seven scoreless innings in each of the first three.
But things could get a little trickier this time around, as the Dodgers' .301 average is tops in the Majors against left-handed pitching. It comes after the club hit just .247 against lefties last year.
The Dodgers got a boost earlier in the week with the return of shortstop Hanley Ramirez from a torn ligament in his right thumb.
"He really worked on everything -- from hitting one-handed when he couldn't do anything, to taking ground balls and doing his footwork," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He kept himself in good shape. He did a nice job taking advantage as much as he could."
Dodgers: Ellis' status in question
• Mark Ellis' strained right quad may land him on the disabled list Friday -- a week after the Dodgers second baseman sustained the injury.
The club needs to clear room for Kershaw to return from the bereavement list, and Ellis seems the most likely candidate. He has been able to field, throw and hit, but he can't yet run at full bore.
"We'll see, I won't know until Friday," Ellis said. "If it progresses every day like it has, I'd be optimistic. But it's early in the season still, so we'll see."
Giants: Affeldt return possible
• Injured left-hander Jeremy Affeldt threw 25 pitches in an extended spring game Wednesday, and if he feels no lingering effects, it's likely he'll make his return for the start of the Dodgers series.
"Overall, it was good," Affeldt said. "I could have been a little more aggressive. But sometimes in those situations it's tough to feel the same aggression that you do [in a game]."
Affeldt hasn't pitched since April 14 because of an oblique strain.
• The Dodgers haven't won a season series against the Giants since taking 11 of 18 in 2009 -- also the last season in which the Dodgers reached the playoffs.
• Kershaw has been especially tough against reigning National League MVP Buster Posey. In 36 at-bats, Posey is hitting just .167 with one extra-base hit against the Dodgers ace.
• Eighteen of the Giants' 28 games this season have been decided by two runs or fewer -- the second-most in the NL.