Dodgers look to keep late-season surge vs. Padres

STATS/TSX

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers are in full roar now, gaining much-needed momentum against a pair of playoff contenders to wrest away the top spot in the National League West.

Now comes a matchup against a club long eliminated from the playoff chase. These have not always gone well for the Dodgers recently.

The Dodgers took three days this week to turn a half-game deficit in the division to a three-game lead and now welcome the San Diego Padres into Dodger Stadium for the final home series of the season.

The opener on Friday will match the Padres left-hander Eric Lauer (5-7, 4.74 ERA) against Dodgers lefty Rich Hill (9-5, 4.02).

At first blush, a matchup against the last-place Padres would seem to bode well as the Dodgers look to nail down a sixth consecutive NL West title. But the Dodgers were just in Cincinnati on their most recent road trip needing victories against the last-place Reds and the task proved difficult.

The Dodgers won just one of the three games at Cincinnati, leaving them an improbable 1-6 against the Reds this season. But they left the Queen City and took three of four from a Cardinals team on a second-half revival, then dispatched the previously first-place Rockies in a three-game sweep this week.

"It's a special group of people to have that focus for three weeks and beyond," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "I believe our guys can sustain it and it's a credit to them and understanding that every pitch is important. We have nine games (remaining) and nothing is sealed yet. It's a good thing that we are playing our best baseball right now."

The Padres will enter this weekend series coming off a victory Wednesday against the San Francisco Giants, but have won just two times in their past six games.

If the Dodgers need a viable strategy, it might be to score early and often. The Padres' bullpen has a 2.39 ERA over its last 10 games going back to Sept. 8, with a WHIP that is a shade under 1.00.

Padres hitters also drew 26 walks over their just-completed six-game homestand, a signal to Dodgers starters that pitch counts could climb this weekend. It also is a signal to the Dodgers' bullpen that usage could be high in the upcoming three games.

There are enough Padres positives to show that the Dodgers should not expect an easy time. Add to that a number of highly regarded prospects not only on the September roster, but seeing action, and the Padres could be an energetic group playing like it has nothing to lose.

Veteran infielder Freddy Galvis knows kids like Javy Guerra and Luis Urias are going to see playing time in the electric playoff-like atmosphere of Dodger Stadium.

"I understand, especially at this time of the year in September," Galvis said, according to MLB.com. "They're calling up prospects, and they want to see them. I understand the situation. But I'll just keep helping the team however I can."

Lauer is one of three Padres rookies who will start in the series. He has won both of his starts against the Dodgers this year, doing it in dominating fashion with a 0.61 ERA over 14 1/3 innings. The Padres even moved Lauer into this spot, giving him an extra day of rest, to see if is up to the task against the Dodgers yet again.

Hill also has two starts against the Padres this year, going 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA over 13 innings. He is 5-4 lifetime against San Diego with a 3.09 ERA over 10 starts.

What to Read Next