They’ll need his help right away.
Lilly tries to snap the Dodgers’ six-game losing streak in his debut Tuesday night against the first-place San Diego Padres, who send red-hot Mat Latos(notes) to the mound in hopes of increasing Los Angeles’ deficit in the division to 10 games.
The Dodgers’ skid - matching their longest of the season - has been especially costly considering it has come entirely against fellow West contenders San Francisco and San Diego.
A stagnant lineup has been the primary problem. Los Angeles (54-52) has averaged 2.3 runs while losing 13 of 18 since the All-Star break, but poor pitching cost the Dodgers in Monday night’s series opener.
The Padres (62-42) won 10-5 to extend their lead to two games over the second-place Giants. They lead the fourth-place Dodgers by nine, Los Angeles’ largest deficit since 2007.
“This is a pivotal time for us. We’re not very good right now,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. “We certainly have to get it together.”
The Dodgers hope Lilly (3-8, 3.69 ERA) can bolster their rotation after he came over Saturday in a trade from the Cubs along with infielder Ryan Theriot(notes). The left-hander had been sharp for Chicago lately, posting a 1.80 ERA with 24 strikeouts in three starts since the All-Star break.
Lilly has also pitched for the Yankees under Torre. He was originally drafted by Los Angeles in 1996, but never made it to the majors with the Dodgers before they traded him to Montreal.
“My dreams since I signed was to come up and pitch for the Dodgers,” Lilly said. “It took me 14 years but I’m getting my chance. It’s an opportunity to get into the postseason and hopefully win a World Series.”
Los Angeles’ playoff hopes will continue to fade during this four-game series barring a quick turnaround.
It likely won’t get easier against the emerging Latos (11-4, 2.45), who looks to win a seventh consecutive decision. The 22-year-old right-hander is 6-0 with a 1.40 ERA in eight starts since losing at Philadelphia on June 4, and a big reason San Diego leads the majors with a 3.27 ERA.
Latos didn’t get a victory Thursday at home against the Dodgers, but he helped the Padres claim a 3-2 win, allowing two hits and two runs - one earned - and striking out seven in five innings.
Chase Headley(notes) and Will Venable(notes) did most of the damage, each hitting a three-run homer. The Padres finished last in the majors with 3.9 runs per game in 2009, but they’ve averaged 5.3 runs since June 30 - second-most in the NL in that stretch.
“We don’t take anything for granted and we don’t think about anything past today’s game,” manager Bud Black said. “I think that’s part of our success. We’re not thinking bigger picture. We’re really focused on the present, and that’s a good thing for our club.”
Lilly is 5-2 with a 2.60 ERA in eight career starts against the Padres.