With both teams 6-3 and a half-game out first place going into their first meeting of the season, the Padres and Dodgers begin their battle for that crucial season series advantage when they meet Friday at Dodger Stadium.
Los Angeles lost 13 of 18 meetings to San Diego last season, a lopsided result that gave the Padres the division championship when both clubs finished 88-74. The Dodgers lost seven of nine at home in the series.
Derek Lowe (1-1, 5.73 ERA) might be the right pitcher for Los Angeles to have on the mound Friday as it tries to begin reversing last year’s fortunes against San Diego. Lowe went 4-0 with a 1.55 ERA in his last five appearances at Dodger Stadium in 2006, and he tied for second in the NL in home wins by going 10-4 with a 3.18 ERA.
The right-hander is 2-2 with a 2.37 ERA in nine starts against San Diego, although the Dodgers have lost his last four starts against the Padres.
Lowe pitched seven innings and allowed one run and four hits in his last outing, a 4-1 victory at San Francisco on Saturday.
“I’m ready to go,” Lowe told the Dodgers’ official Web site. “I feel good. This is a good time for us to get a look at the Padres.”
Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal is expected to make his season debut Friday after recovering from a sprained left ankle, which would allow Los Angeles to feature the top-of-the lineup speed they sought when they signed free-agent leadoff hitter Juan Pierre in the offseason to bat right in front of Furcal.
Wilson Valdez hit .368 (7-for-19) with three runs as Furcal’s replacement.
The Dodgers hope Furcal can help spark them offensively, as they’ve scored three runs or fewer in six of their nine games and will be facing a Padres team that already has three shutouts this season.
“Some guys haven’t been swinging the bats the way they are capable of, myself included,” Pierre said. “But right now I think we’re pretty happy with how we’ve played. It’ll be good to get a look at San Diego at this point because we know they’re coming in here having played pretty well to start the season.”
San Diego defeated San Francisco 4-0 at home Wednesday behind six innings from Greg Maddux and another scoreless performance by its bullpen. Padres relievers have not allowed a run in 28 1-3 innings, a franchise record to open a season, and San Diego is 3 2-3 innings away from tying the longest shutout stretch by the bullpen in team history, established in 1978.
The relievers have allowed 12 hits and four walks while striking out 23.
“I’m running out of adjectives here for these guys,” first-year Padres manager Bud Black told the team’s Web site. I’ve got to look up other words to describe these guys.”
David Wells (0-0, 2.70) will make his second start after he allowed two runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings of the Padres’ 3-2 win over Colorado on Saturday. The left-hander lasted at least six innings in eight of his 13 starts last season, and feels added confidence from having such a deep bullpen behind him in 2007.
“You can’t ask for anything better,” Wells said. “You know that you can win those tight ballgames.”
Wells is 1-2 with a 6.20 ERA in four starts against Los Angeles. He lost his only Dodger Stadium start, giving up two runs and six hits in five innings of a 3-1 Padres loss Sept. 15.
Wells won’t be pitching to catcher Josh Bard, who was put on the 15-day disabled list Thursday with a strained groin he suffered in Wednesday’s loss. Backup Rob Bowen is likely to take Bard’s starting spot, and the Padres purchased the contract of Pete Laforest from Triple-A Portland. Laforest played in a combined 44 big league games in 2003 and 2005 with Tampa Bay.
The Dodgers-Padres series ended in memorable fashion last season Sept. 18. Los Angeles became the first team to hit four consecutive homers since 1964, erasing a 9-5 deficit in the ninth inning before Nomar Garciaparra’s two-run shot in the 10th gave the Dodgers an 11-10 win.