Giants, Dodgers set for battle at AT&T

Get those rally rags prepped and warm up your vocal chords for some hardcore “BEAT LA!!” chanting, Giants Nation.

It’s finally here, in all its rivalry-laden glory: The greatest, and yet the most hate-inducing series this side of the Sierras.

This weekend isn’t only host to Orange Friday/Metallica Night, Cinco de Mayo, and the start of the Orange & Black’s longest homestand of the 2013 season, it’s also first time that the Dodgers come into town.

Following a road trip in which the Giants took three out of six games — getting swept by the last place San Diego Padres then turning around and shutting out the Arizona Diamondbacks — San Francisco is sitting in second place with a 16-12 record, only one game behind the Colorado Rockies.

LA, on the other hand, is currently sitting 3-1/2 games behind Colorado with a 13-14 record. The Dodgers are 6-6 on the road, having dropped two of three games to the reigning World Series champs down at Chavez Ravine to open up the season.

The Dodgers also have sent a whopping nine players to the DL, seven of them pitchers. Oh, and they’ve received plenty of YouTube attention after a spat between Zach Greinke and San Diego’s Carlos Quentin emptied both team’s dugouts.

Not that the Dodgers are going to roll over and get beaten easily. They will send former Cy Young winner — and often-called “Giants Killer” — Clayton Kershaw (3-2, 1.73 ERA) to the mound Friday night against Barry Zito (3-1, 3.29 ERA) and the rest of the G-men.

It might not be the easiest of series, but it will definitely be entertaining. Here’s what the Giants need to do to be victorious this weekend:

If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It … Maybe: As mentioned last week before the Giants’ road trip began, this writer isn’t a big fan of the come-from-behind-at-the-last-second pattern that San Francisco has gotten into during this young season.

Not to mention that 18 of their first 28 games have been decided by two or fewer runs, which adds to many of these match ups’ intense nature.

That being said, San Francisco has been successful with the late-game rally as of late, including their previous three games facing the D-backs.

It would be nice to see San Francisco score more runs being scored early in the game, a la Angel Pagan’s game-opening home run Wednesday night. But if Brandon Belt wants to keep playing the hero and hitting jacks at the last second, then there really isn’t much room for complaining.

And while we’re on the subject of the first baseman…

Bad-a$$ Brandons: We don’t stray from tying Hunter Pence’s caveman diet to his dominance at the plate. Or from praising Pablo Sandoval’s ability to swing at the worst pitches possible and subsequently go yard.

But we also need to give credit to the guys bringing up the rear of the lineup, particularly when they’ve come out of a highly-criticized slump.

Especially since there is nobody on the current Giants roster that  gets hammered with criticism by fans and the media for going into a slump quite like Brandon Belt.

But the 25-year-old finally broke out of his early season woes this week, tallying six hits with three RBIs and two home runs.

Belt’s contributions add extra meat to the tail end of the Giants batting lineup, where shortstop Brandon Crawford has continued to shine. While his stats cooled a bit on the road, Crawford still has two home runs in his last 10 games and continues to be a threat in the field.

A threat that the Giants are going to need on their side when facing Los Angeles batters.

The Bad Guys’ Offense:The Dodgers currently have a dominant .301 average against left-handed pitchers; an average to keep in mind with southpaw Zito leading San Francisco into battle in the series opener.

Granted, Zito pitched seven shutout innings in his last outing. Plus he was dominant against the Dodgers in 2012, holding the SoCal rival’s offense to a .248 collective average and a single home run.

That homerun, however, came from Matt Kemp, his only homer so far this season backed by a sagging .260 batting average.

The San Francisco Giants begin their 10-game homestand Friday with the first of a three-game series against the Dodgers. First pitch is at 7:15 p.m.