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Clayton Kershaw, Edwin Jackson face off at Wrigley Field

The two youngest Los Angeles Dodgers to make their major league debut as a starting pitcher face off on Friday in Chicago.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The focus of this road trip so far for the Dodgers has been offense, and with good reason. With wild swings one way or another, in seven games there have been 90 runs scored, 46 by the Dodgers. But on Friday against the Cubs that focus shifts to the mound, as it always does when Clayton Kershaw pitches.

A win today would make Kershaw the first in the majors to 20 wins this season, the first Dodgers pitcher with two 20-win seasons since Claude Osteen (1969, 1972).

It would also give Kershaw, who missed five weeks on the disabled list, 20 wins in just 26 starts, trying to become just the sixth pitcher since 1961 to do that, per Elias.

But it's not necessarily about numbers with Kershaw. It's more about confidence.

Confidence that was buoyed after Thursday night's comeback win to stop a two-game losing streak that somehow made fans forget about the three-game winning streak that immediately preceded it.

Kershaw on the mound gives Dodgers fans a confidence, a relief, they probably have no right to feel. Kershaw has been so good he dares you to take him for granted, even though you know you shouldn't.

But you can't help it.

Just a year ago Kershaw hit what looked to be his peak, putting up a 1.83 ERA and a career-low walk rate. But even then, because baseball can be cruel, the Dodgers were just 19-14 in his starts, and 21-16 counting the playoffs. Kershaw himself lost nine regular season games.

This year, not so much.

Kershaw is 19-3 in 25 starts, and the Dodgers are 21-4 when he takes the mound.

Kershaw is lasting deeper into games this year, though on the season he is averaging less than one out longer than last year, 7.41 to 7.15 innings per game. But in his last 17 starts, Kershaw is averaging over eight innings per start (8.07), including lasting at least eight innings in seven straight starts, nine of his last 10, 11 of his last 13, and in 13 of his last 16 starts.

In Kershaw's last 19 starts, he has pitched in 150 of a possible 167 innings, or 89.8 percent.

Very roughly during that span, Kershaw's average start has been eight innings, five hits, one run, one walk and nine strikeouts.

That is ridiculous.

Kershaw has allowed 38 runs and nine home runs all season, in 25 starts.

Edwin Jackson, starting for the Cubs on Friday, has allowed 38 runs and eight home runs in his last eight starts, an 8.92 ERA during that span. Naturally, his one win during that span came against the Dodgers, allowing two runs in six innings at Dodger Stadium on Aug. 3.

Jackson, who turns 32 in December and with two years and $22 million left on his contract is exactly the type of return the Dodgers can probably reasonably expect in any kind of high-salaried outfielder trade this offseason, was activated by Chicago before the game, having missed 29 days with a right lat strain.

Kershaw was 20 years, 67 days old when making his major league debut for the Dodgers in 2008. He was the youngest Dodgers pitcher to make his debut since Jackson five years earlier.

Jackson made his debut on his 20th birthday in 2003, and allowed only one run in six innings to pick up the win. His mound opponent that day was Randy Johnson, one day shy of his 40th birthday, and though he was hurt for much of 2003 at the time had won the previous four National League Cy Young Awards.

Kershaw is about to win his third Cy Young Award in four seasons. Does Jackson have another upset in him?

Dodgers fans have reason to feel confident that won't happen.

Because Kershaw.

Game info

Time: 11:20 a.m. PT

TV: SportsNet LA, WGN, MLB Network