The Giants face the Dodgers' top two starters, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, in the series' final two games Saturday and Sunday, respectively. But San Francisco conceivably has a perfect antidote for ace pitchers: Pablo Sandoval.
Harken back to Game 1 of the 2012 World Series, when Sandoval walloped two of his three home runs off Detroit's Justin Verlander. That propelled Sandoval to Most Valuable Player honors in that Fall Classic and bolstered his image as a hugely talented hitter capable of solving the riddles of even the most formidable pitchers.
This year, however, Sandoval has struggled against all pitchers, regardless of their reputation or stuff. He's batting .171 with two home runs and six RBIs. He hasn't homered since April 13 and hasn't driven a run since April 16.
Generally considered an effective clutch hitter, Sandoval has two hits in his last 24 at-bats with runners in scoring position. Overall, he's in a 5-for-34 skid. Though the Giants occupy first place in the National League West, it's fair to wonder how much more securely they'd rest in the top spot with Sandoval producing at even an average level.
It has been theorized that Sandoval's burdened by pressure due to his impending free agency at the end of this season. Naturally, he has denied this. Meanwhile, the two-time All-Star has continued to search diligently for an escape from his season-long slump.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy observed that the quality of Sandoval's plate appearances tends to wane as the innings pile up. The third baseman seemed especially desperate Friday, hacking at a head-high fastball in the fifth inning and pulling a weak fly foul while batting right-handed against Dodgers starter Paul Maholm.
"It seems as the game goes on, the more movement he gets," Bochy said. "He's working on it hard. He worked on it today, to quiet things down."
The Dodgers also are working hard to improve. Thursday, before the opener of a seven-game homestand, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly held a team meeting that, among other things, took to task some players who weren't showing up ready to play.
After losing that series opener to the first-place Giants in 10 innings, the Dodgers were called to Dodger Stadium early Friday for some extra work, with middle infielders working on double-plays, speedsters putting down bunts and pitchers going through spring-like fielding drills.
Mattingly downplayed the cause-and-effect of a disappointing 5-4 trip followed by a team meeting, then extra field work.
"We're giving them some regular work," Mattingly said. "It's something we've done in the past. It's not something new. We planned on the last road trip. We do one or two things every homestand. We're fairly regular with it."
Outfielders were not required to participate.
The Dodgers entered the series with the worst fielding percentage in the league and ranked third in most runners left on base.
Saturday's matinee features 5-1 Greinke against Matt Cain, who comes off the disabled list.
Dodgers: Deploy the shift
Both clubs are placing fielders where they've never been placed before, thoroughly embracing the big data era and the proliferation of statistical analysis.
"We're seeing and doing a lot more shifting," said Mattingly. "If you've got a good pitching staff that can execute pitches, you can tell the defenders where they're going to hit the ball. If everybody executes in a certain zone, guys will do certain things with it. Guys that use the whole field are harder to defend."
Giants: Numbers looking nice
A plethora of statistics appearing in the game notes produced by the Giants' media-relations department suggests that the team's possession of the NL's best winning percentage is no fluke.
San Francisco owns a 14-4 mark against teams with .500 records or better.
The Giants have come from behind to win nine games, one of the higher totals in the Majors.
The bullpen, which seals any team's success, has held opponents scoreless in eight of its last nine games.
• Mattingly said he believes that shortstop Hanley Ramirez, batting .254, is "pressing. He's trying really hard and that's not always good for him. He hasn't hit his stride yet."
• Yasiel Puig's fifth home run on Friday extended his hitting streak to nine games, trying a career best.
• Dodgers reliever Brandon League pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings on Friday, his longest outing since 2010, and has not allowed an earned run in his last nine appearances.
• By homering off Paul Maholm on Friday, Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford improved to 4-for-8 lifetime against the left-hander.
• Giants closer Sergio Romo has made eight consecutive scoreless appearances, spanning 7 1/3 innings, since April 26.