With Schmidt pitching for the first time since facing the Padres in April, the Dodgers look to increase their slim lead over San Diego in the NL West when the teams open a three-game set Monday night.
Schmidt (1-2, 7.36 ERA), a big acquisition for Los Angeles (34-23) in the offseason, will return to the rotation after nursing an inflamed right shoulder. He will be trying to help the first-place Dodgers increase their one-half game lead over the Padres (33-23).
The Arizona Diamondbacks are also one-half game out of first, and trail the Padres by percentage points.
The Dodgers made the decision to activate Schmidt from the disabled list after he threw six shutout innings Wednesday for Class-A Inland Empire in a rehabilitation start, then had an impressive bullpen session Saturday.
“We really needed to see how that ball was coming out of his hand,” Los Angeles manager Grady Little said. “Hopefully, he can continue feeling good. … We feel confident we can put him out there for 90 pitches or so Tuesday. We know he’s going to compete, and we’ll see what happens.”
The three-time All-Star didn’t get anywhere near 90 pitches in his last start, giving up six runs - five earned - and seven hits in just two innings as Los Angeles lost 7-2 to San Diego on April 14.
Schmidt and the Dodgers probably won’t be able to rely on Takashi Saito if a save opportunity arises in this series.
Saito, 16-for-16 in save conversions this season and 26-for-26 dating to the end of last season, could not pitch Monday night in Pittsburgh due to left hamstring tightness. Manager Grady Little expects him to be sidelined for two to three days “in a best-case scenario.”
Jonathan Broxton struggled to close out Monday night’s 6-5, giving up one run and two hits in the ninth.
The Dodgers have won nine of 12.
San Diego, which is 15-6 since May 11 and had Monday off, will send a red-hot Chris Young to the mound. Young (6-3, 2.42) is 4-1 with a 1.13 ERA in his last six starts.
On Wednesday, the right-hander gave up four hits while striking out seven in seven innings to beat Pittsburgh 9-0.
Young, though, struggled against Los Angeles on April 15, allowing five runs - four earned - seven hits and five walks in a season-low two innings as the Padres lost 9-3.
He is 0-2 with a 3.62 ERA in six career starts versus the Dodgers.
San Diego has been giving its pitchers plenty of run support, totaling 18 runs over the past two games. Marcus Giles went 3-for-5 with three runs scored in Sunday’s 7-3 victory over Washington.
Giles is batting .500 (12-for-24) with two triples and three doubles lifetime against Schmidt.
Los Angeles has won four of six meetings with San Diego this season.