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Pitching legends face off as Dodgers host D-backs

The third game of the season Saturday night for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers will have an Opening Day feel about it.

A pair of legendary left-handers will rekindle their personal rivalry in Los Angeles when Madison Bumgarner takes the mound for the Diamondbacks opposite Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers.

Although their head-to-head matchups number in the double digits, they’ve never met in a season opener. That chance was denied in 2018 when Bumgarner had a broken hand as a member of the San Francisco Giants.

National Post

And while they acknowledge having nothing but respect for each other, going head-to-head seems to bring out the best in the pitchers.

It certainly used to bring out the best in Bumgarner, the hitter, who crushed two home runs against his counterpart back when pitchers came to the plate. In fact, the last time Bumgarner squared off against Kershaw as a member of the Giants, it was as a pinch hitter in 2019. He lined out.

It will be all about their arms on Saturday as Kershaw begins his 16th season and Bumgarner his 15th. Their chances to take the same mound on the same day are running out.

Despite injury issues in recent seasons, including multiple back problems, Kershaw remains effective, going 12-3 with a 2.28 ERA in 22 starts last season while being named the National League’s starting pitcher in the All-Star Game. He is 20-11 with a 2.70 ERA in 41 career starts against Arizona.

In his final spring start last week, Kershaw had 10 of his 15 swing-and-misses on his slider.

“Overall, definitely a good step forward for me,” Kershaw said. “It’s time to go.”

Bumgarner struggled last season, going 7-15 with a 4.88 ERA in 30 starts. In three seasons with the Diamondbacks (65 starts), he has a 4.98 ERA. Bumgarner is 16-17 lifetime against the Dodgers with a 2.90 ERA in 41 appearances (40 starts).

The pair of lefties were witnesses Friday on how to control the opposing offense. The Diamondbacks pulled out a 2-1 victory over the Dodgers, not scoring until pinch hitter Kyle Lewis hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning. The Dodgers’ lone run came on a Mookie Betts home run in the seventh.

“I thought we did a nice job taking walks, so we had traffic,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after his team worked nine walks but went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. “Mookie hit an 0-2 slider, but outside of that, we really didn’t threaten.”

A pair of right-handers led the way for the Diamondbacks on Friday as Merrill Kelly did not allow a run in 3 2/3 innings, although he did walk four, while Drey Jameson followed with one run over four innings to pick up the victory.

The duo combined for nine strikeouts and kept the game close for Lewis to perform his heroics.

“I felt like when you pinch hit, it’s an interesting role,” Lewis said on Bally Sports Arizona. “I just tried not to come in and save the day. I just wanted to keep the line moving. That’s what I was telling myself, to just keep it simple, put a good short swing on it, and I was able to do that.”

–Field Level Media

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