Zack Greinke remains undefeated against the San Francisco Giants with wins in six straight outings, and while nearly all of them have come against big-name pitchers, it's almost always been true that the opponent was past his prime.
Madison Bumgarner was the lone exception and will start opposite Greinke on Tuesday night in one of the season's best pitching matchups.
While Greinke is the leading NL Cy Young candidate, Bumgarner has heated up with a stronger August, and each pitcher's present form figures to raise the bar even higher.
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Greinke (14-3, 1.61 ERA) is 6-0 with a 2.28 ERA in eight starts against the Giants while facing Matt Cain three times, Tim Lincecum twice, and Tim Hudson, Ryan Vogelsong and Bumgarner (16-6, 2.97) once each. He never faced Cain before he fell off in 2013, and he didn't encounter Lincecum until his 2012 decline.
The 4-2 win against Bumgarner came Sept. 23 at Dodger Stadium with Greinke giving up two runs and six hits in eight innings. The only run-scoring play he allowed was Bumgarner's two-run homer. Bumgarner surrendered four runs and six hits in 7 1-3 of his last regular-season start before giving up six runs in 52 2-3 playoff innings.
The left-hander has faced the Dodgers three times since and gone 2-0 with a 1.31 ERA to improve to 13-5 with a 2.34 mark in 20 games in the series.
Last month, however, the 26-year-old went 5-0 with a 1.43 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 37 2-3 innings in one of the most dominant spans of his career, putting himself in position to win six straight starts for the first time.
"I'm just going out there and competing," Bumgarner said. "Things are just going our way right now. I don't look at the month, I look from start to start."
No single month has defined Greinke's season, though his last four starts in August were up there with Bumgarner. The right-hander gave up a season-high six runs Aug. 6 in Philadelphia, but he's since gone 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA in four starts.
"Zack was his typical Zack," manager Don Mattingly said after the 31-year-old allowed four hits with nine strikeouts in seven scoreless innings of Thursday's 1-0 win in Cincinnati. "He was good all day."
Bumgarner's homer off Greinke last year was part of his continued success at the plate. He's homered five times this year and his .810 OPS is on pace to be the best by a pitcher with at least 50 at-bats in the last five years. The mark he'd be passing? Greinke's .788 OPS in 2013, though he's 0 for 2 against Bumgarner.
That's just the beginning of the Dodgers' struggles with him. Chase Utley (1 for 8), Yasmani Grandal (1 for 8), Andre Ethier (2 for 24), Adrian Gonzalez (5 for 37), A.J. Ellis (4 for 27) and Jimmy Rollins (4 for 24) are all batting .167 or worse.
Against Greinke, Gregor Blanco (2 for 14) and Marlon Byrd (5 for 26 with 10 strikeouts) have struggled, but newcomer Alejandro De Aza is 3 for 8.
The Giants (69-62) acquired the outfielder in a trade with Boston on Monday before falling 5-4 in 14 innings to drop 4 1/2 back of the Dodgers (73-57) in the NL West.
Gonzalez drove in the winning run and homered for a second straight game against the Giants.
Buster Posey is 7 for 11 in his last two games and is batting .408 this season against the Dodgers. Byrd has 14 RBIs in five games, but the Giants have dropped three straight.
San Francisco has won nine of 13 in the series, but the Dodgers have won the last two.
Giants outfielder Angel Pagan (right patella tendinitis) will be activated Tuesday when rosters expand.