Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw and his San Francisco Giants counterpart, Madison Bumgarner, denied that extra adrenaline floods their bodies when they face each other.
That's OK, as long as the rest of us get to enjoy their confrontations.
Kershaw and Bumgarner will meet for the eighth time in their distinguished careers Saturday at AT&T Park as the Dodgers and Giants continue their four-game series. If their rematch approaches the quality of their previous encounters, it'll be riveting -- and low-scoring.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts recalled that last September, when he coached for San Diego, he noticed on the scoreboard that a Kershaw-Bumgarner matchup was unfolding. Roberts said he told his fellow coaches, "That's a game I'd pay money to go watch. Tomorrow, I get that chance in April.
"These are two great, great competitors in our game and to see them go head-to-head raises everyone's level for sure."
Bumgarner holds an edge over Kershaw, winning four of six decisions when the left-handers share the mound. But Kershaw's ERA in these games is 2.12 to Bumgarner's 2.58. Moreover, Kershaw has dominated the Giants overall, posting a 16-7 record with a 1.54 ERA in 31 games -- the lowest career figure among all active pitchers against any team. In Kershaw's previous appearance against the Giants last Sept. 29, he spun a one-hit shutout, walking one and striking out 13, to help the Dodgers defeat Bumgarner, 8-0, and clinch the National League West title.
By comparison, Bumgarner has been merely excellent against the Dodgers, compiling a 13-7 mark with a 2.45 ERA in 22 games.
Downplaying the notion that opposing Bumgarner heightens his motivation, Kershaw acknowledged he derives a special feeling whenever he pitches at AT&T Park. He's 9-3 with a 1.16 ERA in 15 appearances at San Francisco.
"I really enjoy pitching out here, but I think that's more about the atmosphere here, the fans, the rivalry itself," Kershaw said Friday. "It's always sold out - 400 something in a row. Anytime there's a lot of excitement, the atmosphere and energy, it's more fun to pitch. It's like going from a Spring Training game to a regular-season game."
Bumgarner pointed out he must try to subdue the Dodgers, not solely Kershaw.
"It might be fun to watch for you [reporters] and for the fans, but I don't get to do that," Bumgarner said. "I have to try to get every guy in that lineup out. [That goes] for me and for him, I'm sure. When you're going up against him, you know that runs are going to be at a premium. But, at the same time, you know that the results are going to be that way no matter who you face."
Kershaw and Bumgarner share a certain kinship. After all, they can easily identify with each other. Hours before Friday's game, they paused during their regimen of running in the AT&T Park outfield for an amicable chat.
"I think we're friends," said Kershaw, who surrendered a homer to Bumgarner last May. "Doesn't mean I don't want to beat him. I just think it's because we've been on the same teams for a long time."
Asked whether he and Kershaw were friends or acquaintances, Bumgarner replied, "Somewhere in between those." Quizzed on what he might admire about Kershaw, Bumgarner said of the three-time Cy Young Award winner and 2014 NL Most Valuable Player, "He's the best pitcher in baseball and he seems like a pretty good guy. So what wouldn't you admire? Except his looks. They're bad."
Saturday, the joking and mutual admiration will yield to competition.