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07/31/10 10:50 PM ET

Giants, Dodgers clash in heated division

The coincidence can't be overlooked, the timing evident to anybody who bothers to look at the box scores.

The Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw will return from a suspension Sunday to face San Francisco, the same team that caused his sanction. Kershaw hit Aaron Rowand with a pitch on July 20 after both benches had been warned, meriting an ejection and a five-game suspension. Kershaw originally intended to appeal, then dropped it due to the timing of the hearing.

Now he finds himself back on the mound and facing the team that got him in trouble.

"If they warn me before the game not to pitch inside, I'm still going to pitch my game," said Kershaw, who dropped his appeal amid fears he'd miss two rotation turns. "It's over now. The situation's done with and it won't come up again."

Both the Dodgers and Giants have their eyes on the bigger prize, and that's contention in the hyper-competitive National League West. Both teams play schedules that are heavily tilted inwards down the stretch, with San Francisco playing 38 of its 58 games within the division and Los Angeles playing 35 of its 58 remaining games against West rivals.

And with that trend, you can understand if the teams take a different message from it. The Giants are 17-21 against their division and 36-16 against the rest of the league, underlining the importance of their remaining schedule. Los Angeles -- which has 18 games left against San Diego and San Francisco -- has played to a 25-12 record against West teams this season.

The Giants have been one of the hottest second-half teams in the Majors, though, boasting a league-best 20-6 record since July 3. San Francisco has picked up four games in the standings over that span, moving from fourth in the division to second. The Giants are also 13-4 over the last 17 days and will finally get a day off after Sunday's series finale.

Matt Cain, San Francisco's starter, is fairly indicative of the dichotomy facing the Giants. The right-hander has had 16 quality starts this season and is 2-0 with a 2.05 ERA in three outings since the intermission, but he's also 0-8 with a 4.32 ERA in 15 career starts against the Dodgers. It won't get any easier Sunday, when he faces a motivated Kershaw.

Dodgers: Trades fortify Los Angeles
The Dodgers made a host of moves to improve their base of talent Saturday when they acquired starter Ted Lilly and infielder Ryan Theriot from the Cubs and late-inning reliever Octavio Dotel from the Pirates. Los Angeles dealt Blake DeWitt and a pair of Minor Leaguers to Chicago, and it sent prospects James McDonald and Andrew Lambo in exchange for Dotel.

Now the Dodgers -- who rest 5 1/2 games behind the Giants in the Wild Card standings and seven games behind the first-place Padres -- have to hope their rotation can continue its hot streak. Los Angeles got 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball from Chad Billingsley vs. San Francisco on Saturday, and its starting staff has worked to a 1.75 ERA over its last 14 games.

Giants: Posey leads charge
The Giants picked up relievers Ramon Ramirez and Javier Lopez from Boston and Pittsburgh, respectively, in a pair of minor deals Saturday. But if San Francisco is going to win going forward, it will have to hope for a continuation of its July surge. The Giants have scored 149 runs in July, and they went into the last day of the month with the highest total in the league.

Nobody has contributed more to that surge than rookie catcher Buster Posey, who logged a franchise rookie record for hits in a month (43) and became the first catcher in team history to cross the 40-hit barrier in any given month. The former first-round draftee hit .417 for the month with seven home runs, and he also tied a team rookie record for most RBIs (24) in a month.

Worth noting
The Dodgers played Saturday's game with just 22 players due to the team's various roster machinations and Andre Ethier's absence to attend the birth of his second child. ... Former Giants Rich Aurilia and Shawn Estes were honored Saturday in a Wall of Fame ceremony. The Giants have honored 46 of their former players on the Wall. ... Jim Ray Hart set the team's previous rookie record for hits in a month (42) in 1964 and still shares the RBI record with Posey. ... Posey was the first Giant with 40 hits in a month since Randy Winn in August 2008. ... San Francisco logged a 20-win month for the first time since September 2000 and for the third time in team history. ... Los Angeles hasn't finished behind San Francisco in the division standings since the 2004 season.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.