Padres-Dodgers Preview

The Associated Press

The only thing that may be able to help the San Diego Padres against Clayton Kershaw is another case of the stomach flu for the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner.

However, getting Kershaw off the mound wouldn't solve San Diego's problems with Matt Kemp.

Kershaw, the red-hot Kemp and the Dodgers will try to win their ninth straight home game against the Padres on Sunday.

Los Angeles sent Kershaw to the mound in the season opener April 5 at San Diego, but the left-hander lasted just three shutout innings because of a stomach ailment.

San Diego still went on to lose 5-3, and the Padres can't be looking forward to seeing a healthy Kershaw (0-0, 0.90 ERA). The Dodgers ace is 7-3 with a 2.24 ERA against them in his career, including 5-1 with a 1.63 ERA in the last seven starts.

Amazingly enough, Kershaw may not be the biggest concern for San Diego. Kemp homered twice in a 6-1 victory Saturday, continuing an impressive start for the center fielder against the Dodgers' division rival.

Kemp is 11 for 23 (.478) with five homers and 14 RBIs against the Padres in helping Los Angeles win five of six meetings this season. He has an 11-game hitting streak versus San Diego going back to last year.

"Is there a better player in the game right now?" Padres manager Bud Black asked, according to the Dodgers' official website.

The Dodgers are 8-1 overall, off to their best start since the 1981 World Series championship team opened 9-1.

Ted Lilly helped contribute Saturday in his first start off the disabled list, giving up two hits in seven innings.

"I've been sitting and watching a lot of games, and it's been a collective effort," Lilly said. "So it was nice for me to come out here the first game back and get into what we've been doing the past eight games."

Kershaw and Kemp will try to keep it going Sunday. Kershaw bounced back from his illness Tuesday, giving up one run and four hits while striking out seven without a walk in seven innings of a 2-1 victory over Pittsburgh.

He didn't earn a decision, but extended his unbeaten streak at home to 15 games. He is 11-0 with a 1.44 ERA during that stretch.

The Padres (2-7) don't seem in position to end that streak. They have lost three in a row overall and 15 of 18 against the Dodgers, including their eight-game skid at Chavez Ravine.

After rallying to tie Friday's game - an eventual 9-8 defeat - in the ninth inning, they finished with two hits Saturday, dropping their season batting average to a major league-worst .178. They've struck out 25 times in the last two games.

Edinson Volquez (0-1, 3.00) may need to be very sharp to end a personal seven-game winless streak and pick up his first victory since last June. He is 0-5 with a 5.05 ERA in that stretch, which included five starts for Cincinnati last year.

Volquez was strong in his last outing Tuesday, giving up two runs and striking out eight in seven innings of a 4-2, 11-inning loss to Arizona.

"I thought his stuff was great ... good fastball, good curveball, a nice three-pitch mix," Black told the Padres' official website. "Seven innings and two runs? If he does that, he's going to win a few games."

The right-hander has split two starts against the Dodgers. He allowed three runs - two earned - and struck out seven while opposing Kershaw on opening day, but walked four over five innings and got the loss.

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