Friday night not only gives us a stellar pitching matchup at Dodger Stadium, but also provides a reminder of what the Dodgers have been striving to replace for the last year and a half.
Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke will face off in the opener of a series between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, and that it is their first meeting ever makes it even more special.
For three years these two were teammates, and were the closest parallel the Dodgers had to Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale since that Hall of Fame duo thrived in the 1960s.
From 2013-15, among pitchers with at least 400 total innings, Kershaw ranked first in the majors with a 187 ERA+. Greinke was second at 156.
From 1963-66, among pitchers with at least 500 innings, Koufax ranked first with a 172 ERA+, and Drysdale was 18th at 117.
The Dodgers were 36-10 (.783) in games started by Greinke at Dodger Stadium from 2013-15. Since the beginning of 2013, they are 42-17 (.712) in home games started by Kershaw.
Last year the Dodgers were 1-0 in games started by Greinke in Los Angeles.
Greinke gave the Dodgers a co-ace to partner with Kershaw atop the rotation, and a reliable one at that; Greinke has averaged 31 starts per year over the last nine seasons.
The Dodgers eventually found their No. 2 in Rich Hill, who has been undeniably great in this late-career surge, when he is on the mound. But he was limited to just 20 starts last year between Oakland and Los Angeles, sidelined by a groin injury and blister problems. Those blister problems have resurfaced this year, with Hill already having missed one start.
This is not a plea that the Dodgers necessarily should have signed Greinke. They had a limit, and the Diamondbacks blew past it with their $206.5 million contract over six years. Greinke was pretty bad last year, with his worst year in a decade.
But he’s still got plenty left in the tank, and remains one of the most interesting characters in the game. It makes this matchup on Friday even more compelling. Greinke is also brutally honest, and talked about the matchup with Steve Gilbert of MLB.com:
"He's so competitive that if I started taking it lightly, it would be a bad game plan," Greinke said of Kershaw. "He has a great mindset. A great work ethic. He does everything as perfect as you'd want a pitcher to do."
"I'll just try and block it out," Kershaw said of the matchup. "It's not fun to pitch to people you know. I'm not good at separating that. I'm just going to have to focus and really think about it like he's another guy. Then the next day I can talk to him."
For Kershaw, it is his chance to rebound after giving up three home runs in a loss last Saturday at Coors Field. His four home runs allowed in two starts are his most in any single month since allowing five long balls in six starts in June 2015.
Kershaw has allowed three home runs two other times in his career. In 2012, it took him six starts to allow his next three home runs, and in 2013 it took him 12 starts to allow his next three long balls.
Time: 7:10 p.m. PT
TV: SportsNet LA