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National League Preview from The Sports Network



Monday, April 1st (All times Eastern)

San Francisco Giants (0-0) at Los Angeles Dodgers (0-0), 4:10 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: San Francisco - Matt Cain (0-0, 0.00) Los Angeles - Clayton Kershaw (0-0, 0.00)

(Sports Network) - The San Francisco Giants begin defense of their World Series title on Monday when they kick off their 2013 season against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.

If it's not broke why fix it? Giants manager Bruce Bochy has essentially the same team from last year's championship squad, most notably catcher and reigning NL MVP Buster Posey, who signed a multi-year extension last week that will keep him in the Bay Area through the 2021 season and includes a club option for 2022.

"We like our chances," Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford said. "We've got our guys back. It's pretty much the same team we had last year. What we accomplished last year is our goal this year."

Last season, Posey rebounded from an injury-shortened 2011 campaign to bat a major-league best .336 with 24 home runs, 39 doubles and drove in 103 runs over 148 games.

With Posey leading the way San Francisco, which missed the playoffs in its first title defense in 2011, used a solid summer and dominated September (19-8) to nail down its second National League West crown in three years last season, going 94-68.

The Giants then dispatched the Cincinnati Reds in five games in the NLDS, only after falling behind 2-0 in the series. Surprisingly, both losses were at AT&T Park and the Giants were forced to advance on the road.

A subsequent seven-game marathon with the St. Louis Cardinals punched San Francisco's ticket to the World Series, where they swept the hard-hitting Detroit Tigers.

Pitching was key in that series for the Giants, whose rotation will have the same faces in Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito. Lincecum struggled in the regular season, but was the ultimate team player coming out of the bullpen in the playoffs. However, Lincecum's problems have continued this spring and enters the season as one of the biggest question marks in the league.

Cain will be on the hill Monday, as he tries to follow up a terrific 2012 that saw him throw a perfect game, as well as the World Series clincher. He ended the year 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA.

Meanwhile, it wasn't that long ago that the Los Angeles Dodgers were headed towards bankruptcy.

Well, fast forward two years and they enter the 2013 season with one of the highest payrolls in baseball and are the favorites to unseat the Giants as division champions.

The Dodgers' spending spree, fueled of course by the deep pockets of the Guggenheim ownership group that includes former NBA star Magic Johnson, started with contract extensions to both Andre Ethier and superstar Matt Kemp.

But, it was a trade last summer that really set the baseball world on its ear and let everyone know that the Dodgers are indeed open for business.

Los Angeles acquired first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, outfielder Carl Crawford, righty Josh Beckett and utility man Nick Punto for prospects from Boston in what was essentially a salary dump by the Red Sox with a look towards this season.

The spending wasn't done, though, as the Dodgers pulled off a huge surprise this winter, landing former American League Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke with a 6-year, $147 million free agent deal. L.A. also signed highly touted Korean hurler Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Next up will be getting a deal done for lefty Clayton Kershaw, who very well could become the game's first $200 million pitcher with another strong season this year.

But, first things first for Kershaw, who will draw his third straight Opening Day assignment. Kershaw followed up his NL Cy Young Award winning campaign in 2011 by going 14-9 a year ago with a 2.53 ERA and 229 strikeouts in 227 2/3 innings.

"We can talk about it until we're blue in the face, but until we start winning some games and be in first place for the majority of the season, there's really not much we can say about it," Kershaw said about the Dodgers' expectations.

The Dodgers, though, do have some injury concerns as Hanley Ramirez is expected to miss at least the first six weeks of the season after a thumb injury he sustained at the World Baseball Classic.

San Francisco won the season series from the Dodgers last season, 10-8, and knocked them out of NL wild-card contention in the next-to-the-last game of the regular season.

04/01 10:25:10 ET