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Clayton Kershaw faces Johnny Cueto in Dodgers-Giants showdown opener

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

It's always a big series when the Dodgers and Giants get together, but this weekend's series gets started on an especially high note with Clayton Kershaw facing off against Johnny Cueto in the opener on Friday night.

Cueto has been everything the Giants could have asked for and more in the first season of his six-year, $130 million contract. The right-hander is 9-1 with a 2.16 ERA and has averaged 7.31 innings per start, welcoming himself back to the National League quite nicely.

San Francisco is 11-1 in Cueto's 12 starts, and the Dodgers are 11-1 in Kershaw's starts.

Kershaw is off to the best start of a season in his career, 8-1 with a 1.46 ERA, with 109 strikeouts against only six walks. He leads the majors in innings pitched (92⅔) and ERA, and continues to hold his own against all challengers to his throne as the best pitcher in baseball.

For a while it was Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander, then Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, and later Max Scherzer and Chris Sale staked their claim. Now, Jake Arrieta is the chief contender to the throne.

But best pitcher in baseball is less of a title or trophy as it is a dangerous, jagged hilltop. Several can and have climbed the mountain, but it takes something extra to stay there, and Kershaw just seems to have shoes with the best traction.

Seemingly without fanfare though, Cueto has hung around at or near the mountaintop for some time. At the very least, he has set up base camp at a point higher than most.

Tired of this tortured analogy?

Okay, how about this? Since the start of 2011, Kershaw has the best ERA+ in baseball (177) among pitchers with at least 600 innings. Cueto is second at 147.

The Dodgers scored five runs against Cueto in the first inning they saw him this season, back on April 10 in San Francisco. But Cueto recovered to last seven innings that day, allowing only one more run the rest of the way for the win. Six days later, this time at Dodger Stadium, Cueto allowed one run in 7⅓ innings for another victory.

Kershaw in his career in San Francisco has a 1.23 ERA in 117 innings, with 111 strikeouts and 23 walks (17 unintentional walks), including allowing two runs in eight innings in a no-decision on April 9.

In 15 career starts at AT&T Park, Kershaw has gone at least seven innings 12 times, and has never gone fewer than six innings. He has allowed more than two runs in a start just once in San Francisco, giving up four runs on May 21, 2015. But in those 15 starts, Kershaw has allowed a total of 17 runs.

Game info

Time: 7:10 p.m. PT

TV: SportsNet LA, MLB Network