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Giants-Dodgers Preview

AP - Sports

Los Angeles Dodgers staff ace Clayton Kershaw is no doubt ready to make his first home start since last year's playoffs.

It figures to be a big-game atmosphere against the archrival San Francisco Giants and Tim Hudson, whose control has been impeccable.

These starters will duel in a marquee matchup Sunday, as Kershaw looks to help the Dodgers split the four-game series.

Kershaw (2-0, 0.66 ERA) returned Tuesday in his first outing since opening day and struck out nine in seven scoreless innings to earn an 8-3 victory at Washington. He had been out with a strained back muscle.

"I missed pitching in the big leagues," Kershaw said. "It's a special thing we get to do and I try not to take it for granted, so six weeks felt like a long time."

He'll be on the Dodger Stadium mound for the first time since allowing two unearned runs in six innings as he didn't get a decision in a 4-3 victory over Atlanta in Game 4 of a NL division series.

Kershaw is 5-3 with a 1.85 ERA in 12 career home starts against San Francisco (23-14), and went 3-1 with a 1.38 ERA in five starts last year versus the Giants.

The left-hander will be up against a pitcher new to this rivalry in San Francisco newcomer Hudson (4-2, 1.99), who has lasted 8 2-3 innings in each of his last two starts. That includes Tuesday's 2-1 walkoff loss at Pittsburgh in which he posted his first complete game since June 5, 2012.

''He had unbelievable game,'' manager Bruce Bochy said. ''Two outs, two strikes in the ninth inning, it's a tough loss for him. He pitched his heart out.''

Hudson has issued three walks in 54 1-3 innings, and his 0.50 walks-per-nine innings ratio is easily the best in baseball. As is his 12.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

The right-hander is 0-3 with a 5.56 ERA in his last six starts at Dodger Stadium.

Los Angeles (20-18) has some hitters who have enjoyed success versus Hudson, with Adrian Gonzalez 9 for 20, Matt Kemp 6 for 15 and Chone Figgins 6 for 14.

Gonzalez may be especially looking forward to this matchup considering he is 2 for 31 (.065) in his last eight contests after batting .429 (12 for 28) during a seven-game hitting streak.

Giants sluggers Buster Posey and Hunter Pence could be in for long afternoons. Posey is a .196 hitter against Kershaw and Pence is 3 for 38 (.079).

The Giants are 11-6 against left-handed starters as they look to wrap up this trip with a 7-3 mark. They took a 2-0 lead into the sixth inning of Saturday's 6-2 loss.

Yasiel Puig and Dee Gordon broke open a tie game with consecutive RBI doubles in the seventh inning and Kemp homered in the eighth. The Dodgers snapped a three-game skid and plated more than two runs for just the second time in six games.

''It's always a luxury to have two Cy Young winners at the top of your rotation like Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw,'' said Kemp, who is batting .464 in his last eight games. "But we have to do our job as hitters and drive in runs for those guys.''

Manager Don Mattingly has yet to start Andre Ethier in this series, and Ethier's chances of doing so Sunday are unlikely due to his .174 average against Hudson.

Michael Morse could start Sunday at first for Brandon Belt, who has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a broken left thumb suffered Friday.

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