Celtics vs. Lakers. Bears vs. Packers. Yankees vs. Red Sox. All classic rivalries on sport's biggest stage. Then you have the all-California face-off that occurs almost 20 times per season. The greatest sports rivalry in the world - the Dodgers vs. Giants.
The first series in 2012 hasn't disappointed so far, as the teams split the first two games of the series at Dodger Stadium. Game one had the look of a pitcher's duel, until a five-run eighth inning from Los Angeles led to a route.
Last night, in game two, the Dodgers stranded 13 runners on base and only put together one run on eight hits. The Giants, while being out-hit and mostly kept in check by a dazzling start from Clayton Kershaw, got a two-run homer in the 2nd inning and held on for a 2-1 lead.
Many Dodger fans are up in arms about Don Mattingly's decision to bunt twice late in games, with runners on first and second and no outs. If you're confused as to why they are angry, join the club. You can read more about that on my most recent post on Lasorda's Lair.
Anyway, tonight is the big rubber game. With a win, the Giants would move to within three games of first place in the NL West. So there's not a TON on the line this early in the season, especially since the first-place Dodgers (19-11) can't lose their spot in the standings based on the series outcome.
But the Giants (15-15) were the trendy preseason favorite to win the division and have much to prove.
Tonight, Chad Billingsley squares off versus Tim Lincecum, the Giants' ace who has struggled thus far in 2012, posting an ERA above 5.00 in his first few starts.
Three key players on the Dodgers (Matt Kemp, Jerry Hairston, Jr. and Juan Rivera) are all nursing leg injuries. Kemp will play, Hairston and Rivera likely won't. This shouldn't have a huge effect on the game, as James Loney has been swinging the bat well, and Juan Uribe's awful swing would have been in the lineup anyway.
Naturally, I'm biased, but the way Billingsley has been pitching and the struggles of Lincecum so far lead me to believe the Dodgers will scrap together four or five runs tonight and hold San Francisco to three to take the first rivalry series of the year and re-take a five-game lead in the West. And it sure doesn't hurt playing in front of the home crowd at Dodger Stadium!
Prediction: Dodgers 5, Giants 3