MLB Betting Preview: LA Dodgers host SF Giants

By: Willie Bee | Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Opening Day, a rivalry that has traveled from one coast to the other and a mound matchup between two of the game's brightest young pitchers.  The weather is even going to cooperate.  What more could you ask for?

The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers renew a rivalry that started in New York more than a century ago when the two NL West squads cap Opening Day at Chavez Ravine in an ESPN telecast (5:00 p.m. PT).  San Francisco will send ace right-hander Tim Lincecum to the hill to begin its defense of the 2010 World Series title.  He'll be opposed by Los Angeles lefty Clayton Kershaw.

San Francisco faded from the spotlight during the winter after beating Texas in the 2010 Series.  Much of the news entering the 2011 season has centered around Philadelphia's starting rotation and the roster improvements made by Boston.  The Phils and Red Sox are the paper champions heading into this season as favorites in their respective leagues.

The lack of offseason attention is probably fine with Giants manager Bruce Bochy.  His club is fifth on the World Series odds list at 10/1, trailing Philadelphia (plus 220), Boston (plus 320), the Yankees (plus 530) and Rangers (plus 625).  San Francisco is a plus 475 choice to win the Senior Circuit behind the Phils at plus 175, and even money to defend its NL West title, just ahead of Colorado (plus 115).

Lincecum was last seen on a major league mound in the fifth and final game of the Fall Classic.  San Francisco won four of his five postseason starts and 21 of his 33 regular season assignments.

Three of Lincecum's 2010 starts came against the Dodgers with the Giants winning each time.  This will be his 10th career start versus LA; San Francisco is 7-2 in the previous nine and has won six of the last seven.

The Dodgers, picked third in the NL West at plus 390, won back-to-back division titles in 2008-09 and reached the NLCS both seasons only to fall in five games both times to the Phillies.  Los Angeles slumped to fourth in 2010 with an 80-82 record in manager Joe Torre's final season at the helm.  Don Mattingly, who coached under Torre with the Yankees and Dodgers, will be managing his first official MLB game after being named Torre's replacement.

Kershaw made four trips to the mound versus the Giants in 2010 with Los Angeles winning twice.  The Dodgers were 1-1 in his two home starts, and would've been 2-0 in those games except for a bullpen meltdown in one affair.

That meltdown coincidentally came in the only career head-to-head meeting between Kershaw and Lincecum on July 20.  Los Angeles built a 5-1 lead against Lincecum who didn't make it out of the fifth having allowed all five runs.  Kershaw left after six innings with the Dodgers up 5-4, two of the San Fran runs made possible by left-fielder Xavier Paul's error.   Closer Jonathan Broxton's wildness in the top of the ninth did the rest of the damage in a 7-5 Giants win.

Kershaw and the Dodgers closed as minus 117 chalk in that loss.

San Francisco won 10 of the 18 meetings between the two clubs in 2010, going 5-4 at home and in Los Angeles.

Each club is coming out of spring training with some injury concerns, most notably Giants closer Brian Wilson who is nursing an oblique strain.  Lefty Jeremy Affeldt and righty Sergio Romo are the most likely candidates to work the ninth inning for San Francisco while Wilson is out.

Los Angeles will be missing third baseman Casey Blake (back injury).  Juan Uribe, a big part of San Fran's 2010 success, will be at third in Blake's place with Jamey Carroll playing second base, Uribe's position once Blake returns.

Weather forecasters are calling for an afternoon high in the low-to-mid 80s, that number likely to be reached just before first pitch.  There's little to no chance of rain with a slight breeze from the north (in from center).

The four-game set continues Friday evening followed by an afternoon game on Saturday and another twilight affair to end it when ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball cameras will be on hand.  The Giants are expected to send Jonathan Sanchez, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner to the hill for those contests.  Mattingly and the Dodgers will counter with Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda.

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