Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw and anybody associated with the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers know what to expect when the star left-handers square off.
Two of baseball's best meet for a third time this season Thursday when the Giants try to improve to 6-0 at home against the Dodgers, who are in danger of being shut out in a three-game series by their archrival for the second time in four seasons.
"As much as anything you like to see guys rise up," Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly said of Kershaw facing Bumgarner. "It's fun watching those guys."
It's been fun for San Francisco (22-18), which is 6-2 in the season series and has outscored the Dodgers 18-6 while winning all five at AT&T Park. The Giants were the last team to blank Los Angeles in three straight from June 25-27, 2012.
Though Kershaw (2-2, 4.24 ERA) went 0-1 while the Dodgers lost his April 22 and 28 starts versus San Francisco by one run apiece, he posted a 2.77 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 13 innings. Bumgarner (4-2, 3.20) went 1-0 with a 1.88 ERA in those contests while the clubs combined for eight runs.
"I think when pitchers go up against a certain pitcher, they know they'd better pitch well because they don't expect a lot of runs," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
Bumgarner is 3-1 and Kershaw is 1-3 in five matchups against each other.
"It's going to bring out the best in you, for sure," said Bumgarner, 8-3 with a 1.94 ERA in his last 12 starts versus Los Angeles. "There's no way around that."
Beginning with those back-to-back starts against the Dodgers (24-15), Bumgarner is 3-1 with a 2.14 ERA in his last five outings. He topped the 1,000-inning mark Friday by lasting seven and giving up two homers in a 10-2 win at Cincinnati.
That same night, Kershaw earned his first victory in five starts and 100th overall after giving up three runs and striking out 10 in 6 2-3 innings of a 6-4 win over Colorado.
"It's cool. I don't know if it means a whole lot, but it's something to celebrate, I guess," he said. "Hopefully, I'm just getting started."
Kershaw has enjoyed pitching at San Francisco, where he's 8-2 with an 0.98 ERA in 12 starts. Though the Dodgers fell 3-2 there April 22, he gave up two runs and three hits over six innings while striking out nine and not factoring in the decision.
Bumgarner yielded a two-run homer to pinch-hitter Alex Guerrero in 6 1-3 innings of that contest.
A loser in five of seven, Los Angeles doesn't face an easy task trying to break out after totaling two runs and 19 hits in the last four.
"It's very difficult, especially when we're not getting guys on base," said Yasmani Grandal, who is 1 for 23 in this season series. "It's going to happen. It might as well happen right now. It's early in the season still."
Adrian Gonzalez ranks among the major league leaders in batting (.345) and RBIs (32), but he's hitting .190 with two RBIs in his last six games and is 2 for 16 at San Francisco in 2015. He's 4 for 35 against Bumgarner, and Mattingly kept Gonzalez out of the lineup in both games he started last month.
After Buster Posey belted a two-run homer for one of his three hits in Wednesday's 4-0 win, the Giants try for a season-high sixth consecutive victory.
Posey is batting .371 with three home runs and 10 RBIs in the last eight games. He's 2 for 5 with a homer versus Kershaw this season.