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Series preview: Giants vs. Dodgers

4/4/2014
Hyun-Jin Ryu will start Friday for the Dodgers against the Giants' No. 5 starter Ryan Vogelsong. AP Photo/Gregory Bull

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers go into their first series against their bitterest rivals riding Hyun-Jin Ryu's new curveball, Matt Kemp's uncertain ankle and their pitching rotation's biggest mystery.

The Dodgers were hesitant to use ace Clayton Kershaw three times in their first six games, an opportunity that arose because of the team's opening series in Australia. They didn't want to pile up too many innings on Kershaw too soon.

But now Kershaw is on the disabled list and Ryu, who has started his season with 12 scoreless innings, will get the opportunity Kershaw couldn't. He has been impressive in part because he developed a new grip for his curveball, making it nearly as lethal as his changeup and another weapon when he needs a strikeout. Ryu pitches Friday afternoon against Ryan Vogelsong, the Giants' No. 5 starter, who makes his season debut.

In the second game, the Dodgers turn -- finally -- to Paul Maholm, the left-handed pitcher they signed before spring training for just this kind of eventuality, with a starting pitcher injured. They just didn't think it would happen this soon, or to their ace.

Josh Beckett was a possibility for Saturday, but he'll make a minor-league start Friday in Rancho Cucamonga instead and likely come off the disabled list by the middle of next week. Zack Greinke, coming off a strong first outing, will pitch Sunday for the Dodgers. The Giants are undecided on Saturday and Sunday starting pitchers.

Kemp will come off the disabled list Friday and start. He was originally out of the lineup -- and not happy about it -- but that changed after Yasiel Puig was benched for being late to batting practice on the field. The Dodgers have little idea what to expect from the one-time superstar, who is coming off two disappointing seasons weighed down by injuries.

The Giants took three of four games in Arizona this week. Each of the games was decided by two runs or fewer. One of the Giants' losses included some controversy with the new replay system. Manager Bruce Bochy was unable to challenge a later close call because the call on his first challenge was upheld.

First baseman Brandon Belt is hot. He homered in each of the first two games -- the first Giants hitter to do so since Ray Durham and Benito Santiago accomplished the feat in 2003.