Clayton Kershaw is seeking to re-establish his dominance of the San Francisco Giants in order to give the injury-riddled Los Angeles Dodgers some breathing room atop the NL West.
Ryan Vogelsong is looking to further tighten the race with another outstanding performance at home.
Kershaw and Vogelsong will face each other for the second time this season as the bitter rivals continue their series Tuesday night.
Kershaw (5-3, 2.73 ERA) was charged with a 2-1 loss in his most recent start against San Francisco (41-33) on May 8. He allowed two runs and five hits with seven strikeouts in eight innings opposite Vogelsong (6-3, 2.41), who scattered eight hits in 7 1-3 while holding Los Angeles (43-31) to one run.
The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner had gone 6-0 with a 0.88 ERA in his previous seven starts against the Giants. He hasn't allowed an earned run over 31 2-3 innings while winning four starts in a row at San Francisco.
The Dodgers, though, have dropped six of the first seven on this nine-game road trip and their division lead was cut to two games after an 8-0 loss to the Giants on Monday.
"Everybody's building this series up like it's a big deal," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "For us, it's one game. It's a long season, a long grind. We play these guys a lot more throughout the year. Talk to me about the series in August or September and I'll talk about if it's a big series or not."
Giving the ball to Kershaw may not be enough to widen their lead, given that the Los Angeles offense has a .177 average with 13 runs in its last seven games.
The Dodgers squandered their ace's latest outing, as he yielded one run and three hits in eight innings while the bats managed three hits and the bullpen failed to record an out in a 4-1 loss at Oakland on Thursday.
Part of the offensive woes are due to Matt Kemp's absence. Los Angeles has totaled six homers while going 11-13 since the center fielder began his current stint on the disabled list May 31, and his timetable for a return is still unclear after the team announced Monday that he would likely miss the All-Star game.
Kemp has 12 homers in 36 games this season.
The Giants are looking to continue taking advantage of the Dodgers being without Kemp, reliever Javy Guerra, starter Ted Lilly and second baseman Mark Ellis.
"It's big," said Barry Zito, Monday's winner. "They're pretty banged up over there and we've got to capitalize on that."
Having Vogelsong take the mound at home should help. The right-hander is 3-0 with a 1.26 ERA in his last five starts there - the Giants have won all five - and he's 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA against the Dodgers since returning to the majors last year.
Vogelsong may have extra motivation in starting opposite Kershaw again after his first loss in nine starts Wednesday, which came against the Los Angeles Angels and their ace Jered Weaver. Vogelsong allowed three runs and seven hits while hitting two batters in seven innings of the 6-0 defeat, while the Giants mustered four hits - two off Weaver.
"If people are going to start taking me seriously, these are the games I need to win - against guys like Weaver and other teams' No. 1 pitchers," Vogelsong said.
Pablo Sandoval is 16 for 27 with eight RBIs in his last 10 meetings with the Dodgers after collecting three hits - two doubles - and three RBIs Monday. He went 3 for 9 versus Kershaw last year.