Preview: Kenta Maeda, Madison Bumgarner Open Key Series Between Dodgers-Giants
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw last pitched on June 26, and on that date the Dodgers trailed the San Francisco Giants in the National League West by eight games. Since Kershaw’s injury, the Giants have been one of the worst teams in baseball, and Los Angeles’ offense has come alive.

That’s amounted to the Dodgers not only catching the Giants, but passing them as Los Angeles now leads the division by one game. Tuesday marks the beginning of the biggest series of the season to date, as the Dodgers host the Giants in a three-game series.

Since Kershaw went down, rookie Kenta Maeda has stepped up and become the Dodgers’ proverbial ace. In six second-half starts he’s 4-1 with a 4.36 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.

Overall on the season, Maeda is 12-7 with a 3.29 ERA, 3.67 FIP and 1.07 WHIP. In 136.2 innings pitched, he has 138 strikeouts to 35 walks.

Maeda owns a 3.33 ERA in 12 home starts and has not lost a decision at Dodger Stadium since July 5. In his only career start against San Francisco on April 17, he struck out seven and gave up just one run in seven innings, earning a win.

The Giants counter with an ace of their own in left-hander Madison Bumgarner. The former World Series MVP is 12-7 with a 2.25 ERA, 3.20 FIP and 1.02 WHIP, while striking out 195 and walking 46 in 175.2 innings.

After yielding a 1.94 ERA in 19 first half starts, Bumgarner has a 3.13 ERA in seven starts since the All-Star break. In 24 career games (23 starts) against the Dodgers, he is 13-8 with a 2.57 ERA and 1.04 WHIP.

The southpaw has struggled against them a bit this season though, as he has given up five earned runs in 11 innings across two starts, going 0-1. Bumgarner allowed four earned runs in five innings when he last faced the Giants’ arch rival at Dodger Stadium.

The only Dodger who has hit Bumgarner particularly well is Kiké Hernandez, who gets the start in center field Tuesday. Hernandez is 10-for-16 with three home runs against him. Hernandez slugged two home runs off Bumgarner on April 15.

Hernandez has only played seven games in center field this season, with his last start coming Aug. 9 against the Boston Red Sox. He has a .766 on-base plus slugging percentage against lefties on the season, compared to .516 against right-handers.

With the left-hander Bumgarner on the mound, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has elected to bat Hernandez in the leadoff spot, with another right-handed bat, Howie Kendrick, following him.

Los Angeles is coming off a season-high 18 runs in their last game, as they launched seven home runs, including three from Adrian Gonzalez. The first baseman has hit safely in 15 straight games, going 25-for-61 (.410) during the streak.

Corey Seager also homered in Monday’s game, extending his hitting streak to 13 games, and leaving hime one home run shy of setting the Dodgers’ all-time record for most in a single season by a shortstop.

While the Dodgers’ offense is currently soaring, the Giants come into the series pressing as they rank 27th in baseball in runs scored since the All-Star break.

After batting .302/.407/.521 with 10 home runs and 47 RBIs in the first half, Giants first baseman Brandon Belt is batting just .213/.353/.361 since the break. He hits third in Bruce Bochy’s lineup.

Los Angeles recalled Charlie Culberson from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Tuesday, and he starts at second base.

Dodgers lineup:

CF: Kiké Hernandez
LF: Howie Kendrick
SS: Corey Seager
3B: Justin Turner
1B: Adrian Gonzalez
C: Yasmani Grandal
RF: Rob Segedin
2B: Charlie Culberson
P: Kenta Maeda

Giants lineup:

CF: Denard Span
LF: Angel Pagan
1B: Brandon Belt
C: Buster Posey
SS: Brandon Crawford
RF: Hunter Pence
3B: Eduardo Nunez
2B: Joe Panik
P: Madison Bumgarner