The series finale between the Dodgers and Giants on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium features the renewal of a pitching duel of the highest order. Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum face off against one another for the sixth time on Wednesday, and the first matchup since 2011.
Kershaw (No. 7 overall) and Lincecum (No. 10) were drafted within three picks of each other in the 2006 MLB Draft, but it was Lincecum, four years older than Kershaw, who first set the standard for pitching excellence that Kershaw has followed.
Lincecum won the National League Cy Young Award in 2008 and 2009. Kershaw won the award in 2011, and finished second in 2012.
In 19 games against San Francisco, including 18 starts, Kershaw is 9-4 with a 1.28 ERA — the lowest ERA ever against the Giants with at least 50 innings. Lincecum is 8-5 against the Dodgers with a 2.69 ERA in 20 games, including 19 starts.
Their first head-to-head duel came three seasons ago, and was kind of a dud. On July 20, 2010 at Dodger Stadium, Lincecum allowed five runs and couldn't get out of the fifth inning. Kershaw allowed four runs in six innings, and both finished with a no-decision in a game won by the Giants with a ninth-inning rally.
But the matchups that followed in 2011 were legendary. They faced off four times that year, and all four were one-run affairs. Every game was won by Kershaw.
March 31, 2011: Kershaw pitched seven scoreless frames, while Lincecum allowed only an unearned run in his seven innings. That was enough for the loss in a game won, 2-1, by the Dodgers on opening day at Dodger Stadium.
July 20, 2011: On the one-year anniversary of their first matchup, Kershaw struck out 12 in eight scoreless innings. The only blemish on Lincecum's scorecard was a solo home run by Dioner Navarro, who would hit .193/.276/.324 that season. The splash hit proved enough for a 1-0 Dodgers' victory at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Sept. 20, 2011: Lincecum allowed just two runs in seven innings. It was technically his worst start against the Dodgers all season, but still good enough for a win in most circumstances. But Kershaw was once again even better, allowing just one run while pitching into the eighth for his 20th win of the season.
In those head-to-head matchups, Lincecum put up a 1.24 ERA but was 0-3 and the Giants lost all four games.
Wednesday night marks the first game between Kershaw and Lincecum since those epic 2011 duels. Kershaw has tasted a bit of bad luck this season, as despite his 2.06 ERA and averaging more than seven innings per start he owns only a 5-5 record, and the Dodgers are just 8-8 in his starts. His last victory came May 20.
Lincecum is just 4-7 with a 4.52 ERA this season after going 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA in 2012, but he is 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA in his last four starts against the Dodgers.
The Dodgers (34-42) are in last place in the National League West, but have won their last four straight for their longest winning streak of the season. The Giants (38-39) fell under .500 for the first time since opening day with losses on Monday and Tuesday at Dodger Stadium. L.A. is attempting to finish just their second sweep of the season.