Dodgers vs. Giants is one of those special rivalries that carries meaning regardless of the season, the players or the standings.
But in a year like 2021, with stars on both sides and a tight NL West race hanging in the balance? That’s when things get really interesting.
Tuesday night’s matchup at Dodger Stadium — the second in a four-game series — also will be the MLB.TV Free Game of the Day, giving fans around the country a chance to tune in for some exciting West Coast baseball. (Blackout restrictions apply, although live audio still will be available through MLB.TV in local markets.)
Here is a breakdown of the matchup.
How they’re doing
Giants: 59-34 (1st in NL West)
Dodgers: 58-37 (2nd in NL West)
When the season began, the division was supposed to be about the budding rivalry between the defending champion Dodgers and upstart Padres. San Diego is still in the mix (5 1/2 games back), but it’s the franchise that’s fought the Dodgers since their New York days that has emerged as the surprise of 2021, taking MLB’s best record into Tuesday. Still, L.A. is right on the Giants’ tail.
The matchup on the mound
Giants: Alex Wood (8-3, 3.67 ERA in 15 starts)
Wood, a 2020 World Series champ with the Dodgers, already has faced his former club twice this season, in back-to-back starts in May (12 innings, six earned runs). While L.A. reached him for four homers, Wood also struck out 15 and walked only two.
The Dodgers need to fill a hole in their rotation Tuesday and will go with an unnamed left-hander as an opener. Manager Dave Roberts also said the team’s No. 2 prospect, right-hander Josiah Gray, will get the bulk of the innings in his MLB debut.
The player to watch
Is Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts finally getting hot? It seems a little silly to ask that question in regards to a player who made the All-Star team and was a top-20 position player in the NL in the first half. But everyone (Betts included) expects more from him offensively. Well, in his first two games coming out of the break, all Betts did was go 7-for-9 with five extra-base hits before being held out of the starting lineup the past two days with right hip inflammation. If vintage Mookie is back, it changes the complexion of the race.
Don’t forget him
It’s been a renaissance season for Giants catcher Buster Posey, who went through two years of declining production before opting out of the shortened 2020 campaign entirely. The 2012 NL MVP is back in form in 2021, at age 34, batting .328/.421/.547 with 12 home runs in 58 first-half games. Posey went on the IL with a left thumb contusion in early July but returned to the Giants’ lineup on Monday, homering in his first at-bat.
The Giants have constructed a stellar rotation and a lineup that leads the NL in home runs. But one big reason for their success is defense. San Francisco entered Monday leading MLB teams with plus-29 Outs Above Average (OAA), a Statcast metric that measures fielders based on the quantity and difficulty of plays they make or don’t make. As the heat map below indicates, the Giants’ greatest strength is at shortstop (plus-10), thanks in large part to three-time NL Gold Glove Award winner Brandon Crawford, who landed on the IL with a left oblique strain on Monday.
Number of note
These teams have created some serious drama so far in 2021. Six of their first nine games, entering Monday, were decided by one or two runs or went to extra innings. (The Dodgers won six of the nine).