Petco Park, San Diego, CA
After losing the first game of their last series to the San Francisco Giants, the San Diego Padres came back strong to take three of the four games at Petco Park.
Now, they’ll try to keep their positive momentum going against the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team who is currently scuffling and looking up at the Padres in the NL West Standings.
Game 1 (7:10 PT): Hyun-Jin Ryu (1-0, 2.79 ERA) vs. Robbie Erlin (0-1, 2.38 ERA)
In the opening game of the series, Ryu will take the ball for the Dodgers, while surprise starter candidate Robbie Erlin will start for the Padres, in place of what was supposed to be Luis Perdomo. For reasons that have yet to be made clear, Erlin will make the start in lieu of Perdomo.
In 2018, the Dodgers don’t really have much going for them. They’re currently 5-9 and sit in last place in the National League West, and are the owners of a team .238 batting average, with nearly their entire lineup mired in an early season slump. They will try to build on their win on Sunday by sending the lefty Ryu to the mound, who has arguably been LA’s best starter this season, besides a few glimpses from Clayton Kershaw. After posting back-to-back solid seasons in 2013 and 2014, Ryu has struggled to stay healthy, as well as put together sustained success, winning just six games since that 2014 campaign where he went 14-7. Now, seemingly healthy and looking strong, Ryu will pose a formidable challenge as the Padres attempt to run their win streak to four games.
On the mound for the Padres will be fellow left-hander Robbie Erlin, who will be making his first start with the Padres since early 2016. A Tommy John “alum,” Erlin has looked good in his return to live action this season, breaking camp and posting a sub-3.00 ERA while coming out of the bullpen. The occurrence of Erlin’s start is due to the fact that Luis Perdomo is currently serving his suspension for his role in the fracas that took place with Nolan Arenado and the Colorado Rockies. Nevertheless, Erlin is a solid replacement candidate and should give the Padres a good chance to continue their winning ways.
The Dodgers will send another lefty to the mound with Alex Wood, who has yet to re-capture the dominance that he saw last year, as a truly solid arm in the middle of LA’s rotation. This year, he’s scuffled to the tune of only 17.2 IP over three starts, averaging just over five innings a start a season after he averaged just over six. Wood (and the other Dodgers lefties) are going to have their work cut out for them trying to navigate a Padres lineup that features multiple players who punish left-handed pitching. However, they may be able to take dynamic center fielder Franchy Cordero out of the equation with their slew of southpaws.
The Padres will counter with Bryan Mitchell, someone who has struggled early on, with the leash around his starting days inevitably tightened. In his first three starts this season, Mitchell has yet to make it through six innings, and has had a really tough time finding the strike zone, which can be evidenced by his 3:14 K/BB ratio, which is alarming. If he can’t start finding the zone more consistently, and Eric Lauer continues to throw the ball well in AAA (he struck out ten over six shutout innings Sunday), he could quickly find his way out of town. Expect the Padres to continue to exercise patience, but also expect that to wane if he continues his wild ways.
In the finale, the Dodgers will turn to Kenta Maeda, yet another solid arm who has been off to a respectable start to the season. As is customary with a majority of pitchers, Maeda tends to get knocked around the most early in the count, so hopefully the Padres can attack him early and often and gain an early advantage. Made will look to rebound from a start in which he lasted just 2.2 IP.
The Padres will give the ball to one of their hottest arms as of late, veteran Tyson Ross. In each of his three successive starts, Ross has looked better and better, including his last outing where he went six innings and gave up one unearned run. Ross has really looked like the same pitcher who was so great for the Padres in both 2014 and 2015, where he earned himself an All-Star selection, as well as being the owner of one of the nastiest sliders in baseball. Now, he’ll hopefully continue his success as he tries to navigate a tough Dodgers lineup.
Hitters to Watch
Chris Taylor (LAD): Taylor, once again in the table setter’s position at the top of the Dodgers’ order, remains the same player he was last year, where he could have been considered one of LA’s best contact hitters. He’s still dangerous, and remains a semi-bright spot in the Dodgers’ lineup during this extended offensive slump.
Matt Kemp (LAD): Yes, he’s still in the league. And he’s actually been pretty good this year. Ever since he was traded back to the Dodgers, Kemp has shown a strong work ethic, which included losing an ample amount of weight to enhance his athleticism. Now he’s hitting third for the defending NL Champs and has seemingly found flashes of his 2011 self. That’s the Dodgers for you.
Corey Seager (LAD): Part of the team-wide slump the Dodgers are currently in, Seager’s gotten off to a slow start that has been uncharacteristic of what he’s shown the past two years. While everyone assumes he’s going to turn it around sooner rather than later, it’ll be interesting to see just how much longer Seager floats around the Mendoza Line.
Christian Villanueva (SD): After hitting three home runs and then going into a semi-extended slump, Villanueva had fans wondering if he was just a flash in the pan. Then, he decided to get hot again and is now leading NL Rookies in home runs. It’s still too early to judge whether or not this is for real, but Villanueva’s streakiness is a positive sign, for whatever that means to you.
Hunter Renfroe (SD): As well as Villanueva, Renfroe has to be positively salivating at his match-ups for this series, drawing two lefties and a righty he’s dominated in his career. Now, with Will Myers and Manuel Margot due back sooner rather than later, Renfroe’s going to have to show that he belongs in an outfield that is about to become increasingly crowded.
Jose Pirela (SD): Have any guesses for who is currently leading the majors in hits? If you guessed Pirela, you would be right. Ever since he got called up last June 6th, he has been an absolute force for the Padres, arguably being their best hitter. The only thing he hasn’t been able to do is hit homers (he has yet to hit one in 2018), but his consistent hard contact has more than made up for that.