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ARI@LAD: Beckett fans nine for his first Dodgers win

It's September and the Giants and Dodgers are fighting each other in a fierce playoff race. Sound familiar?

If so, it's because they've been doing just that for the better part of the last century, dating back to their cross-borough showdowns in New York.

The latest edition of the rivalry sees a crucial series open Friday when the two clubs meet for three games in San Francisco, with the Giants' lead sitting at 4 1/2 games.

Friday's game features a matchup of a pair of former aces, whose disappointing seasons have been well documented.

But both Josh Beckett and Tim Lincecum have plenty of time to turn it around, and a strong September (and possibly October) would make just about everyone forget about the season's first five months.

"When I've had to dig deep, I've done it," said Lincecum, who is 8-14 this season with a 5.21 ERA. "I had a terrible August in 2010 and I got out of that. This first half was my terrible August, and we're still in our position. I just have to keep pushing hard and working in the right direction."

The two-time Cy Young Award winner has managed to find his old form a bit in the second half, posting a 5-4 record with a 3.26 ERA since the All-Star break. Plus, he's been just fine all year against the Dodgers, with a 2.55 ERA in three starts (two victories).

Countering Lincecum is Beckett, who made his presence felt in his home debut with nine strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings while allowing only one run to the D-backs on Saturday.

Beckett was sent to the Dodgers in the blockbuster trade in which they also landed first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Though he was considered by some a "throw-in" in the deal, Beckett now faces the task of being the Dodgers' No. 2 pitcher in the absence of injured right-hander Chad Billingsley.

To manager Don Mattingly, that's clearly a role he thinks Billingsley will handle with ease.

"I've never really seen him pitch bad," Mattingly said after Beckett's last start. "His stuff is pretty consistent. I expect him to be like this. He locates, changes speeds, he's not afraid."

Dodgers: Billinglsey shut down
A partial tear in his ulnar collateral ligament has landed Billinglsey on the 60-day disabled list, ending his season.

Billingsley had a second platelet-rich plasma injection Wednesday, and if that doesn't heal the tear, he may need surgery, which could affect his status for 2013.

"There was an outside chance I may be able to get back," said Billingsley, who learned he'd be shut down Monday night. "It wasn't very good, but I was able to hold onto that."

Giants: Crawford's defense shining
Brandon Crawford struggled early in the season at shortstop for the Giants, but he's been one of the best in the game during the season's second half, according to manager Bruce Bochy.

"This kid's last two, three months, I don't know who else has played better," Bochy said. "That's how good he has been."

Bochy's comment came in response to a question about a play Crawford made in Tuesday night's game. He charged a grounder with a runner on second, tagged the runner and fired to first for an impressive double play.

Worth noting
• The last three series between the Giants and Dodgers have all ended in sweeps, with the Giants winning two of them, including a three-game set from Aug. 20-22. The two teams will close the season with a three-game set in Los Angeles.

• Lincecum has owned Gonzalez throughout his career. In 39 at-bats -- all coming when Gonzalez was a Padre -- the lefty-hitting first baseman has struck out 16 times and mustered just eight hits.

• The Giants have posted a 28-19 record against National League West opponents, which is the best mark among all NL West teams.

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