Those familiar archrivals, the Giants and Dodgers, cross paths with their starting rotations in varying degrees of disarray.
Tuesday's series opener at AT&T Park promises to begin in stirring fashion with the annual Jackie Robinson Day tribute. The observance will have extra significance, since the legendary Robinson broke baseball's color line in 1947 as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Once the ceremony ends, however, both clubs must resume facing harsh realities.
Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum brings an inflated 9.90 ERA into Tuesday's assignment. Lincecum's coming off yielding seven runs in four innings last Wednesday in a 7-3 loss to Arizona.
That marked the seventh time Lincecum allowed seven runs or more in a game. History doesn't favor a complete turnaround for the two-time Cy Young Award winner when he confronts the Dodgers. In his starts following the previous six occasions when he surrendered at least seven runs, Lincecum's 1-4 with a 5.09 ERA.
However, the Giants-Dodgers rivarly typically brings out the best in Lincecum. He owns a 9-6 career record against Los Angeles to go with a 2.94 ERA, the fourth-lowest among active pitchers against the Dodgers.
Meanwhile, simply naming the starters for each series represents a considerable challenge for Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, who's dealing with the absence of injured ace Clayton Kershaw. Probable starting pitchers are generally not a revelation for a club with a normal starting rotation. But since Kershaw was sidelined with a strained muscle near his left armpit, the Dodgers don't have a normal rotation.
Mattingly settled on starting Josh Beckett, Paul Maholm and Hyun-Jin Ryu, in order, against the Giants. The combination of Monday's scheduled off-day and using Maholm on Wednesday enables Ryu and Zack Greinke to receive an extra day of rest. Greinke will start the homestand opener Friday night against Arizona.
Mattingly acknowledged "it is tempting to move everybody up" and have Ryu and Greinke face the Giants on regular rest, but added that he's "managing for the whole season and keeping guys strong. With the off-days, we want to take care of guys as much as we could."
The Giants won't be lulled into a false sense of security just because they won't oppose Kershaw.
"That's such a good staff over there," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "You don't like facing Kershaw, but the other option is a very good pitcher."
Dodgers: Wilson's eligible to return
Reliever Brian Wilson is eligible to be activated from the disabled list Tuesday when the Dodgers face his former Giants teammates, but Mattingly on Sunday wouldn't say when it would happen.
"It sounds like he feels ready to go," Mattingly said. "No reason to make a decision to talk about today. We'll have to make a move."
Unless a timely injury develops, the move won't be a simple one if the Dodgers keep the pitching staff at 12. Kenley Jansen closes, and Chris Perez and J.P. Howell set up. Jamey Wright has been effective as the long man.
Chris Withrow and Paco Rodriguez have options, but both have been dominating. That leaves the inconsistent Brandon League, but the Dodgers owe him roughly $14 million guaranteed through 2015.
One possibility for management would be to wait and see how Beckett and Maholm fare in their starts against the Giants before making a roster move. Beckett lasted four innings in his only start last Wednesday, while Maholm went 4 1/3 innings on April 5.
Wilson took two weeks off to rebuild arm strength after irritating an elbow nerve rushing to be ready during a compressed Spring Training.
Giants: Belt wouldn't mind rewind
Bochy felt that first baseman Brandon Belt needed a complete rest, prompting the first baseman's inactivity Saturday. It marked the first game Belt didn't play this season.
"It's fair to say that he's going through a little slump," Bochy said of Belt, who returned to the lineup Sunday and went 0-for-4 as San Francisco edged Colorado, 5-4, in 10 innings.
Belt was among the National League's hottest hitters when the Giants and Dodgers met April 4-6. He batted .343 (12-for-35) with five home runs and nine RBIs in his first eight games, including 4-for-13 in the series at Los Angeles. In Belt's last four games, he's hitting .105 (2-for-19).
Despite Belt's skid, he still ranks second in the NL in homers.
• Giants pitchers have issued only 23 walks in 13 games, an average of 1.8 per game.
• The Dodgers are 7-1 on the road, matching their best start away from home since 1983.
• With Sunday's victory over Colorado, the Giants improved to 2-4 when they score first.
• San Francisco is batting .162 (6-for-37) with runners in scoring position in its last five games.