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09/12/10 1:25 PM ET

Contending Giants square off with rivals

Normally, a three-game set against a sub-.500 team would be a welcomed respite for a ballclub like the Giants, who are in the throes of a heated division race and seem to be playing white-knucklers on a daily basis these days.

The Giants will, in fact, play the first of three against a team mired around the even mark Tuesday at AT&T Park, but seeing as the team in question is their mortal rival, the Dodgers, this one figures to be anything but a respite.

San Francisco took two of three in the clubs' last meeting, Sept. 3-5 at Dodger Stadium, and this marks the final series of the season between the longtime foes. The Giants own the season series edge by the slim margin of 8-7.

Despite the big series against their rivals, the Giants have maintained all along that they're not especially concerned about their opponents or watching scoreboards, a sentiment reiterated by manager Bruce Bochy on Sunday.

"Right now, we just have to worry about what we can control, and that's how we play," Bochy said.

"We know we still have 18 games left," said rookie catcher Buster Posey. "We have to keep our nose down and keep working."

The Giants are in a virtual tie for first place in the National League West after taking three of four in their weekend series against the Padres (only percentage points separate them).

"We came in here in second place and we're leaving tied for first," said reliever Sergio Romo. "That's pretty big."

They will commence their set against the Dodgers on Tuesday a half-game behind the Friars, as San Diego won on Monday while the Giants were idle. Nipping at their heels are the Rockies, who won 10 consecutive games before falling to the Padres on Monday.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, were considered among the best teams in the NL prior to Opening Day but have stumbled through a tough season marked by ownership uncertainty, player injuries and surprisingly ineffective performances. They've conceded that they're a team undergoing a fair measure of transition and that their dwindling playoff hopes are all but dashed.

Dodgers manager Joe Torre fielded a lineup light on power and experience Sunday -- four of the eight position players have not homered in the big leagues -- but assured that the Giants will face the best possible lineup beginning Tuesday.

"In all fairness to the teams that are competing, we line up our best guys against the teams that are in contention," Torre said. "When you are dealing [with] where we are at and the teams that are still alive, when you are talking about San Diego, San Francisco and Colorado, I think for the good of the game you have to do that.

"You try to win with the people you have out there."

The starters for the Dodgers and Giants will be a contrast in southpaws. For Los Angeles, it'll be hard-throwing youngster Clayton Kershaw, who's continued his ascent in just his second full season in the bigs, increasing his strikeouts per nine innings while cutting back on the walks. Crafty veteran Barry Zito, looking to halt a dubious stretch of losses in his past eight decisions, will get the nod for San Francisco.

Zito has been up and down during that stretch, but he pitched well enough against the D-backs in his last start Thursday to get the win.

"I felt loose out there and let the ball go; it was a lot better," said Zito.

Dodgers: Hard-hittin' Gibbons
Jay Gibbons, last seen in the big leagues with the Orioles in 2007 prior to being called up by the Dodgers on Aug. 8, continued his hot stretch with another homer Sunday, a majestic blast off Houston's Nelson Figueroa. The slugger has five long balls and 15 RBIs in just 43 at-bats since his recall and has earned the intrigue of Torre.

"He knows what he's doing," said Torre. "I'm seeing a player that gives you a reason to look for more from him. I want to see more from him."

Giants: Center of attention
Aaron Rowand and Cody Ross will bear watching in this three-game series. The veteran outfielders should be in the mix to man center field in place of Andres Torres, who is sidelined for 10-14 days after undergoing an emergency appendectomy. Prior to the surgery, Torres was mired in a 5-for-47 slide at the plate in his previous 12 games.

"You feel terrible for Andres with the year he's having and the great job he's done," Bochy said. "But these guys need to look at this as a great opportunity and you move on. ... This is a good club with a lot of depth."

Worth noting
Sunday's game marked the Dodgers' final tilt of the season against an opponent outside of the NL West. They went 23-19 against the NL Central in 2010. ... Carlos Monasterios, who started for the Dodgers on Sunday, is vying to become the first Rule 5 Draft selection to last the entire season with the Dodgers since D.J. Houlton did it in 2005. ... Casey Blake hit his 15th homer of the season Saturday night, and he has now hit 15 or more homers in eight consecutive seasons. ... Torre's ejection Saturday night was his fourth since becoming Dodgers manager. ... Tim Lincecum racked up his 200th strikeout Sunday, marking the third consecutive season he's done that. ... The Giants finished their 10-game road trip with a 7-3 record. ... The Giants' 1-0 loss at PETCO Park on Saturday marked the 19th such final score at the Padres' digs since it opened in 2004. That's the most in that stretch, four more than the 15 at Dodger Stadium.

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