Mattingly acknowledged that the Dodgers reset their rotation at the All-Star break with this series in mind. That's why
Zack Greinke will start the series opener Friday night, followed by Kershaw and
"It's not do-or-die, but it's definitely one we want to win," first baseman
The Dodgers start the series 1 1/2 games behind the Giants in the
The Dodgers won't face the Giants again until September, when they face them six times in their last 16 regular-season games.
Unlike the Dodgers, the Giants didn't line up their three best starters to pitch this weekend. As a result, the Dodgers won't face
"We lined it up so we would win the series," Gonzalez said. "Based on that itself, we have go out there and win two out of three."
Mattingly said there's an added emphasis to win the division because of changes in the playoff format introduced last season. The two wild-card teams face each other in a one-game playoff to determine which advances to a best-of-five division series.
"Everybody knows at this point you don't really want to be a wild card," Mattingly said. "If that's what you have to do to get in you'll take it, but it's Russian roulette. Anything could happen in one game. You could have a game where everything just goes wrong, then your season's over."
The Dodgers trailed the Giants by as many as 9 1/2 games this season. But the Giants lost 22 of 32 games leading up to the All-Star break, allowing the Dodgers to temporarily overtake them in the standings.
When play resumed, the Giants moved back in front. They have won five of seven games since the break, whereas the Dodgers have lost four of six.
How the teams have fared lately could be a reflection of their competition. The Giants beat up on the downtrodden
Another factor has been the Giants' bullpen, which has stabilized since
"They're a good team," Kershaw said. "They've added Morse this year, who is a power threat. Sandoval's swinging the bat really well right now. Obviously, you have Posey and Pence. They have a lot of right-handed bats and drive the ball, which is always tough."
The Dodgers can also expect a hostile reception from the fans at AT&T Park.
"Great fans," Kershaw said. "It's always packed. They love their team and they let us know, so it's fun."
Still, Kershaw wouldn't concede this series was any more important than any other. "It's just another game right now," he said.
Mattingly shared the sentiment.
"I don't think we're going to walk into the series like, 'This is the series. If we win this series, we've got it,' " he said. "Nobody's going to walk out of this series thinking it's over one way or the other."
Greinke (11-6 win-loss record, 2.90 earned-run average) will face the Giants'