In 2008, the Dodgers welcomed a pair of promising new arms to their pitching staff in Clayton Kershaw and Hiroki Kuroda. Five years later, the former teammates are set to meet at Dodger Stadium as two of baseball's top hurlers.
Kuroda, who signed with the Yankees after the 2011 season, has flown under the radar while putting together one of his best years, posting a 2.51 ERA -- good enough for second in the American League. Kershaw, meanwhile, has been as dominant as ever for the Dodgers, leading the Majors in ERA (1.96), WHIP (0.87) and opponents batting average (.185).
The respect between the two runs deep.
"He is a really great pitcher, and he's a great person, as well," Kuroda said of Kershaw. "If I had a choice, I would rather not face him."
Wednesday marks Kuroda's second start against his former club. He tossed 6 2/3 innings and allowed two runs in a Yankees victory in the Bronx last month.
The Dodgers limped out of that two-game series in New York in last place and 10 games below .500. Since then, they've put together a 27-6 run and have leapfrogged the rest of the National League West. They now sit 3 1/2 games ahead of second-place Arizona.
"For the most part, we've been able to put a core lineup out there every day," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Our defense has gotten better because everybody is in the right spot. I'm not moving guys around all the time, so I've been able to put them where we envisioned. That's helped our consistency, defensively and offensively."
One of the most important pieces to that puzzle was shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who came off the disabled list in early June. Ramirez extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a pair of hits on Tuesday, and he is now batting .391 with three homers and 10 RBIs since the All-Star break, during which time the Dodgers are 10-1.
Kuroda isn't concerned with the Dodgers' recent turnaround, however. When asked about his former team's success, Kuroda replied that it isn't his job to worry about any club but his own.
"It doesn't change my approach," he said. "As a Yankees player, you're expected to have a good performance. All I'm concentrating on is that I contribute to a win."
As for having to enter the batter's box against his former teammate, Kuroda quipped, "That's the most I'm worried about."
Kershaw has won his last two starts, allowing just three runs on eight hits in 15 innings. He's 6-4 with a 1.74 ERA at home this season.
Yankees: Girardi impressed by Puig
Rookie phenom Yasiel Puig has energized the Dodgers this year -- a season after the Angels' Mike Trout and the Nationals' Bryce Harper pieced together two of the best rookie campaigns in recent memory.
Count Yankees skipper Joe Girardi as a fan of the game's youth movement.
"We've had some real exciting young players kind of burst on the scene lately," Girardi said. "There's one here on the other side of town. There's one in Washington, D.C. Now you have one here.
"They seem to have all the tools. ... It's fun for the fans to watch, because as you see some of the superstars age and get phased out, in a sense, you want to see a new young crop come up."
Dodgers: Wilson signs with L.A.
Former Giants closer Brian Wilson signed a Major League contract with the Dodgers on Tuesday, and general manager Ned Colletti is hopeful the right-hander will be available in two or three weeks.
Wilson, who has missed much of the last two seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery, will report to the club's Minor League complex in Arizona to make a few rehabilitation appearances.
"We know he's a competitor and the success he's had," Colletti said. "It's a matter of health and being sharp."
• The Yankees and Dodgers have met in the World Series 11 times, trailing only the NBA's Lakers-Celtics rivalry for the most title matchups in major professional sports.
• Hitters on the current Yankees roster are batting a combined .410 against Kershaw. Left fielder Alfonso Soriano is hitting .364 with two long balls in 11 at-bats, and catcher Chris Stewart is 5-for-9 with a home run.
• The Dodgers haven't lost a series since the Pirates took two of three from them in Pittsburgh, June 14-16.