With time not on their side, the wild card-contending Los Angeles Dodgers can't afford another subpar performance against the San Diego Padres.
The Dodgers have the additional challenge of visiting Petco Park, where San Diego has been terrific for the past two months, as they attempt to cut their playoff deficit Tuesday night.
With only nine games remaining, Los Angeles (79-74) has a small margin for error as it seeks its first playoff berth since 2009. The Dodgers put themselves in that position by dropping 10 of 14 entering a three-game set at Cincinnati over the weekend.
They would take two of three from the NL Central champions for their first series win since August, and Adrian Gonzalez snapped a 25-game homerless drought with two solo shots in a 5-3 victory Sunday.
"Just win, man, that's all that matters," said Gonzalez, who hadn't homered since his first at-bat with the team Aug. 25. "We can't go out there and win a series anymore. We've got to go out there and try to sweep. We win nine games, that gives us a legitimate shot at this."
Los Angeles has been far from perfect in the past two series against the Padres (73-80), losing two of three at home in each - most recently Sept. 3-5.
The Dodgers, though, have not lost a series at Petco over the past two seasons, winning 10 of 15 games there. However, they haven't visited since May, and they're facing a Padres team which has gone 23-7 at home since July 17.
Josh Beckett (1-2, 3.45 ERA) has flourished against the Padres, going 5-1 with a 2.16 ERA in six starts, but now faces them for the first time since 2007 and has been struggling on the road. The right-hander is 0-5 with a 5.73 ERA over his last six road starts, including three since being acquired from Boston.
He gave up four runs over 7 1-3 innings Wednesday in Washington and did not get a decision in a 7-6 victory.
Two other midseason acquisitions could be back on the field for the Dodgers. Hanley Ramirez had to leave Sunday's win after fouling a ball off his left shin, but he will likely play Tuesday after X-rays came up negative. Outfielder Shane Victorino is expected to return after a strained left wrist kept him out of the Cincinnati series.
As Victorino looks to break a 1-for-20 slump, Ramirez tries to halt a 17-game homerless drought which dates back to when he hit his 24th of the season Sept. 3 against San Diego. He's hit four homers in his last 10 games at Petco while batting .366.
Padres scheduled starter Edinson Volquez (10-11, 4.30) also has been very good there, going 4-1 with a 1.98 ERA over his last six home starts and winning the last two.
Volquez, though, has lost two of three outings this month while posting a 6.19 ERA. Plus, the right-hander is 0-2 with a 6.30 ERA in four starts against the Dodgers this season.
The Padres are returning home after dropping two of three in Arizona and San Francisco last week, but they avoided a sweep to the NL West champion Giants with a 6-4 victory Sunday.
"You have to be positive and know that we have a good team," first baseman Yonder Alonso told the team's website. "We're going to be there, definitely going to be there."
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