One of sports’ classic match-ups will be the nightcap on the first night of Major League Baseball in 2020 as the LA Dodgers host their longtime rivals, the San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers have World Series aspirations once again, while the Giants will be looking to scratch and claw their way into contention in the NL West.
Giants at Dodgers – Thursday July 23
Giants starter: Johnny Cueto (2019: 1-2, 5.06 ERA)
Dodgers starter: Dustin May (2019: 2-3, 3.63 ERA)
A monkey-wrench was thrown into this matchup just hours before the first pitch on Thursday as the Dodgers put ace Clayton Kershaw on the injured list with back stiffness.
Kershaw will be replaced by right-hander Dustin May. The 22-year-old May appeared in 14 games for the Dodgers last season, going 2-3 with a 3.63 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP.
It is unknown how long Kershaw will be out of action.
As for Cueto, the two-time All-Star missed most of last season following Tommy John surgery. The right-hander did allow a respectable 11 hits over 16 innings in four starts at the end of the season. Yet three of those hits were home runs and he also issued nine walks. Cueto then pitched to a 12.79 ERA and .448 BAA across three exhibition starts this spring.
As alluded to previously, a side-by-side comparison of the two squads reveals a glaring mismatch on paper.
The Giants cobbled together a 77-85 record and third place finish in the NL West last season with many of the same veterans that return for 2020. San Francisco still finished 29 games behind first place Los Angeles and many of those players are one year further away from their primes following mostly lackluster 2019 showings. Additionally, franchise stalwart Buster Posey isn’t available, having opted out of the 2020 campaign.
San Francisco’s most potent bat now arguably belongs to Mike Yastrzemski. He slashed .272/.334/.518 as a 28-year-old rookie in 2019 and offers 20-homer upside. It goes downhill fairly quickly from there. The likes of Evan Longoria, Brandon Belt, Alex Dickerson, Hunter Pence and Brandon Crawford make for a hodgepodge collection of aging sluggers and reclamation projects.
The Dodgers lineup comes off like the ’27 Yankees in comparison. The marquee acquisition of Mookie Betts this winter augments an attack that returns reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger, Joc Pederson, Max Muncy and Justin Turner. That foursome slugged a whopping 145 home runs between them in 2019.
The Blue Crew’s “second tier” of hitters would be the envy of quite a few teams, the Giants included. Corey Seager, the emerging Gavin Lux, Matt Beaty, A.J. Pollock and Will Smith all pack solid power in their respective bats. Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor loom on the bench as quality depth and pinch-hit options for manager Dave Roberts.
Dodgers -1.5 (-143)/ Giants +1.5 (+120) at DraftKings Sportsbook
The Giants were an MLB-best 51-30 (63.0 percent) against the line on the road and 42-34 (55.3 percent) versus the number in division matchups.
The Dodgers were 42-42 at home against the run line last regular season and postseason. They were 38-38 versus the number in NL West matchups specifically.
Los Angeles tied with the Astros for highest run differential last season (+ 1.7 runs per game). They were also 12-7 overall in the season series against the Giants and enjoyed an average margin of victory of 4.7 runs in those wins.
Over 9 runs (-112)/ Under 9 runs (-108) at DraftKings Sportsbook
Breakdown: The Over was 41-38-2 (51.9 percent) in the Giants’ road games last season and 37-36-3 (50.7 percent) in NL West matchups.
The Over was 39-39-1 in the Dodgers’ home games last regular season and postseason. The Over was 38-34-4 (52.8 percent) in their division games.
Nine of the 19 meetings between the teams last season exceeded Thursday’s projected total of 8.5 runs.
Dodgers -315/ Giants +250 at DraftKings Sportsbook
The Giants recorded 77 wins last season. They managed a 42-38 record on the road, but San Francisco was only 20-29 when facing a left-handed starting pitcher.
The Dodgers led the National League with 106 regular-season victories in 2019. They posted a 59-22 mark at Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles was also 76-34 versus right-handed starting pitchers.