Tempers were at a high when the clubs met back in May and again in a meeting earlier this month. Now factor in both teams are fighting to stay in playoff contention with just a month left in the season, and this National League West rivalry becomes a pivotal showdown for each club.
As if that wasn't enough, the pitching matchup in Thursday's series opener pits Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw against D-backs ace Ian Kennedy in a rematch from that heated May 14 contest.
In that early-season tilt, Kennedy threw a pitch inside and then behind Kershaw in the third inning. Kershaw retaliated two innings later with a brushback pitch that just missed Kennedy. Each of those at-bats resulted in a walk.
"They both got walked," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said at the time. "It was no big deal, no one got hit, two guys walked and the game went on."
After the game, the D-backs straight-faced the incident, saying they were simply pitching Kershaw inside because he was a good hitter. Kershaw enters the rematch with a career .148 batting average.
Regardless of how each team addressed the incident in May, the bad blood resurfaced at the start of August. Dodgers second baseman Jerry Hairston accused Paul Goldschmidt of a dirty play and called for the D-backs first baseman to be suspended for a late slide into second base.
Hairston wasn't seriously injured and no suspension was handed down, but the play certainly didn't help ease the tensions between the teams.
With neither club currently in line to make the postseason, however, the focus for each club this weekend will be on improving its playoff chances -- or in the D-backs' case, simply keeping them alive. Arizona arrives in Los Angeles in the midst of a free fall in the NL Wild Card standings after losing six straight games.
"It's frustrating," left-hander Wade Miley said of the recent skid. "We've just got to keep going, keep grinding and push through this thing."
D-backs: Kennedy scoffs at being shut down
Kennedy realizes he has fallen far short of expectations this season (11-11, 4.44 ERA), but he doesn't take kindly to the idea of not finishing out the season in his regular spot in the rotation.
Given Kennedy's workload in seasons past and the D-backs' suddenly slimming playoff chances, there has been speculation of shutting down Kennedy early and giving his starts to one of the organization's younger pitchers.
"Is that a joke?" Kennedy said when asked about the possibility. "If that was the case, I feel like there are a lot of guys that could just mail it in -- you know, just say, 'I don't have it this year, I'll see you guys next year.' That wouldn't work. Part of our job is we have to go out there even when we fail."
Kennedy pitched 222 innings last year on his way to finishing fourth in the NL Cy Young voting. This season, he's logged 162 1/3 innings, but his velocity has been down at times and he's struggled to put together a consistent run.
"Honestly, it's crazy and it's frustrating, but my arm feels really good," Kennedy said. "That's what drives me nuts. I feel really good and I'm not having success. It's just part of this game. It's a humbling game."
Dodgers: Kemp hopes to return Thursday
Slugger Matt Kemp said he hopes to return to the lineup Thursday, but manager Don Mattingly wasn't as optimistic.
Kemp sat out Wednesday's game after slamming face-first into the Coors Field wall on Tuesday night. He eventually left that contest two batters later, but CT scans and MRIs revealed only a bone bruise to his left knee, but no fractured jaw.
Without any serious injuries showing up in the test results, Mattingly said he plans to ultimately let Kemp determine when he'll be ready to return.
"He's got to be honest," Mattingly said. "It doesn't do us any good if he can't do anything."
Kershaw is 7-3 with a 2.41 ERA in 12 career starts against the D-backs. Current D-backs players are hitting a combined .150 (16-for-107) against the lefty with 32 strikeouts.
After losing the season series to the Dodgers five straight years from 2006-10, the D-backs have gone 18-12 against Los Angeles since the start of last season.