Dodgers rely on Greinke in opener of big set with Giants

( - The San Francisco Giants have lost only three of their previous 10 meetings with the Los Angeles Dodgers this season, but two of those have come at the hand of Zack Greinke.

Greinke eyes a 12th victory on the season Friday night when the Dodgers begin a big three-game set with the Giants.

San Francisco sits 1 1/2 games up on Los Angeles for first place in the National League West, having won 10 of its last 16. The Giants, though, did own a 9 1/2-game lead for the top spot as late as June 7 before the Dodgers started to get on a roll.

However, Los Angeles has lost four of its past six to allow San Francisco to pad its edge over so slightly.

Now Greinke will attempt to cut into that advantage and avoid a third straight losing start. He struggled early on Saturday in St. Louis, giving up four runs on a two-run homer and two-run single in the opening frame. Greinke did not allow a run after that, but was touched for six hits and five walks over his 5 2/3-inning outing.

'That first inning is always the dangerous inning. They got him early," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly on Greinke.

The 30ston Friday night. Keuchel drew some All-Star consideration thanks to a first half that saw him go 8-3 with a 2.38 ERA in his first 13 starts. Included in that stretch were two complete games and 11 quality starts.

However, he has posted a 5.02 ERA over his last six starts and is coming off another shaky outing at Chicago on Saturday, when he was tagged for three earned runs on 12 hits and exited after five innings. It marked the second time in his last three starts that Keuchel gave up 12 or more hits.

Still, Porter has stood behind the left-hander, who gets to pitch at Minute Maid Park for the first time since June 11 after making five straight starts on the road.

"When you pitch as well as he was pitching during that stretch in which he was unbelievable, throughout the course of the 33-some-odd starts, you're going to have some starts when you're not going to have your best stuff," the skipper said.

"You're going to have some games in which you give it up. I look at the full body of work, and he's been arguably our best pitcher, and he'll continue to pitch well in the back half of the season," Porter said.

For Miami, Brad Hand looks to build off his first win of 2014. The left-hander went a career-high seven frames against San Francisco on Sunday and allowed two earned runs on six hits.

Getting back into a normal routine has been key for Hand, who has shuffled between the bullpen and starting rotation this season and spent time on the disabled list in June with an ankle injury.

"I was in the bullpen, not throwing very often," Hand said. "It's a role I had never been in. I had always been a starter. I got back into my routine and what I'm comfortable doing, throwing every fifth day with my (bullpen sessions) in between. I really got a chance to kind of sharpen everything back up."

This will be the first time these two teams have met since 2012, when Houston was still a member of the National League.