Dee Gordon, right, throws to first base as Brandon Crawford retreats back… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)
The Dodgers' three-game series against the Giants starting Monday in San Francisco is the biggest series in the history of all eight planets. Or at least until the next one, or for sure until September.
The Giants are on the move. They have carved 41/2 games off the Dodgers' lead in the National League West and will begin the series only three games back.
Yet, Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly is having some trouble with the concept of these historic rivals meeting in some sort of significant series in June.
"This thing has a long way to go," Mattingly said. "If we're going to give ourselves a chance and make the playoffs, then we're going to be playing down to that last week where every game counts."
Big now, bigger later, they hope the biggest at the end. No, wait, monumental at the end.
"There will be another monumental series and then another monumental series, another one with those guys," Mattingly said. "And there will be a bunch of monumental series in between.
"They're all big. Every game you play is an important game … so it's a monumental series."
It's a series a long time in coming. The season is closing in on the All-Star break and the Dodgers have yet to play a series in San Francisco. They've played in Milwaukee, Houston, Seattle and Oakland. But not in San Francisco.
"It is weird," pitcher Clayton Kershaw said. "I feel like we haven't even seen them."
If the Giants sweep, they will catch the Dodgers in the NL West. And the Dodgers have lost five of their last six games. Think of it as an unexpected midterm test.
It's the kind of midseason series that can get a player's attention, that gets the motor revved.
"I guess we shouldn't, but we're all human beings," outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. said. "We know what's going on. Guys will be a little more geared up for it. We feed off that kind of emotion."
The one advantage to not playing each other much in the first half is that, should it come down to a pennant race between the two, they meet four times in the second half, including at Dodger Stadium for the final three games of the year.
"I guess it makes for fun games there come later in the year," outfielder Andre Ethier said.
For now, however, this is about as big a series as baseball can manufacture June 25. Two teams that don't care for each other, with lots of bitter history, meeting for the first time in nearly seven weeks, with the division lead at stake. Almost as if it's significant.
"Obviously, it's set up this way with these guys right behind us in the division," Ethier said. "Any time we play the Giants it's big. Those players, our players, of course the fans; it doesn't matter what time of year it is.
"And this has a lot of bearing on how each of our teams is going to look going into the break."
For the Dodgers, interest can also rise simply because this series is at AT&T Park, where fans take great zeal in playing their southern neighbors.
"I like that atmosphere," Mattingly said. "A lot better than Oakland. Oakland is dead. [San Francisco] has some juice."
And right now, the Giants are applying midseason pressure.
"Definitely playing the Giants, playing your rivals, playing them in San Fran, will be a good test for us," Kershaw said. "At this point, it's June. It's not time to get amped up just yet. But the other side of that is, we need to start winning some games and this would be a good time to start."