LOS ANGELES -- Even at 23 years old, Madison Bumgarner is accustomed to pitching in big games. And Monday night's matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers is about as big as it gets when the calendar still says August.
The Giants open a three-game series with the Dodgers a half-game out of first place in the NL West. Bumgarner is tasked with facing reigning Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw. It's the kind of matchup that draws plenty of attention, and even Bumgarner's teammates are looking forward to it.
"You catch yourself to make sure you're in the game, because they're fun to watch," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "It was the same last year with (Tim Lincecum) and Kershaw."
Kershaw (11-6, 2.90) and Lincecum squared off repeatedly last season, and this year that task has often fallen to Ryan Vogelsong, who is 2-1 against Kershaw and the Dodgers. But Vogelsong pitched Sunday, missing Round 4 by a day. Bumgarner said he's more than ready to pick up the mantle.
"I just need to prepare and have a plan," Bumgarner said. "I've got to make sure I'm on my game because that's a good hitting team. You do that and other things will take care of themselves."
The Dodgers showed their newfound hitting prowess while sweeping the Giants at AT&T Park last month and outscoring them 19-3 in three games. Said manager Bruce Bochy: "Obviously they had their way with us in the last series."
Bochy believes he has the right pitcher on
"We're facing one of the best left-handers in the game, but we've got a good young one," Bochy said. "(Kershaw and Bumgarner) have different styles. It's going to be exciting. You look forward to a series like this."
After two straight starters failed to get through five innings against the Padres, the Giants could use a long outing from Bumgarner, who is the perfect guy, having pitched at least six innings in seven consecutive starts.
To beat the Dodgers and get back into first, however, the Giants will need contributions from the other eight players on the field. While getting swept last month, the Giants were shut out in back-to-back games. They don't intend on going down quietly this time around.
"I think everybody is excited for this," Belt said. "It's time to do some damage."