Sunday, September 30, 2012
The Los Angeles Dodgers enter their final series of the season still searching for a wild-card spot.
That three-game series, however, comes against their most bitter rival -- the NL West champion San Francisco Giants.
The Dodgers hope they can get closer to a playoff spot by matching their longest winning streak of the season against Matt Cain and the visiting Giants on Monday night.
Los Angeles (84-75) is two games behind St. Louis for the NL's second wild card. The Cardinals' final series is against Cincinnati, the NL Central winner.
"We've always played San Francisco pretty good. It's going to be a hard-fought battle," center fielder Matt Kemp said. "We win out and Cincinnati plays a good St. Louis team, hopefully they sweep them or get two from them.
"We still know there's hope. There's a plan for everything and hopefully our plan is to make it to the postseason. The way we're playing I would like our chances."
The Dodgers have lost five of their last six against the Giants (93-66), getting swept in the most recent three-game set at Chavez Ravine from Aug. 20-22.
Los Angeles, though, enters this series on a five-game winning streak after beating Colorado 7-1 on Sunday. Prior to their five-game run, the Dodgers had dropped 12 of 18, including two of three at San Francisco from Sept. 7-9.
"Obviously, we are putting some wins on the board," manager Don Mattingly told the team's official website. "We are able to score some runs and the pitching kind of continues to do what it has been doing.
"It's good. It's kind of fun playing like this. It makes you think, 'Why can't you do this over the course of a season or a month.'"
The Dodgers are in for a much more difficult challenge against Cain (16-5, 2.77 ERA) and the Giants, winners of 14 of 18 on the road.
The right-hander is 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA over his last eight starts versus the Dodgers, and he's 2-0 with a 2.29 ERA in his past six outings at Los Angeles.
Cain won there again to complete the sweep Aug. 22, yielding one run in seven innings of an 8-4 victory.
The three-time All-Star was also impressive Sept. 8, when he held Los Angeles to two runs in 7 1-3 innings but didn't get a decision in the 3-2 loss.
That outing marks the only Giants' loss in Cain's last nine starts. He's 6-0 with a 2.18 ERA during that stretch, winning his last three while yielding two runs in 20 innings.
Cain will have to contend with a red-hot Kemp, who is 11 for 20 with four homers, three doubles and nine RBIs over the last five games.
Kemp, though, is 2 for his last 19 against Cain with a homer.
The Dodgers will counter with Aaron Harang (10-10, 3.68), who carried a no-hitter into the fifth Wednesday before leaving with one out in an 8-2 win at San Diego. He had been 0-3 with a 4.62 ERA in his previous five outings -- all Dodgers losses.
The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.15 ERA in his past seven starts against the Giants, all coming with San Diego and Cincinnati.
Harang has struggled against Buster Posey, who is 3 for 6 with a home run off him.
Posey, the league leader with a .337 average, is 8 for 17 in his last five games, but was rested in Sunday's 7-5 win at San Diego. He's bidding to become the first catcher to win the league's batting crown since Hall of Famer Ernie Lombardi with the Boston Braves in 1942.