Before Monday’s opener of the three-game Padres-Dodgers series in San Diego, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was asked if his club felt it was in a pennant race.
“We’d better embrace it as a pennant race,” Roberts responded. “The goal is to win the division every year. And right now, the Padres are playing as good a baseball as anybody in the big leagues … playing with a lot of confidence.
“They are going to be ready for us.”
The Padres defeated the visiting Dodgers 7-2 Monday night to pull to within 1 1/2 games of the National League West leaders.
The Padres have won eight straight games to improve to 32-17. The Dodgers have lost five of their last eight to slip to 33-15. And not only were the Padres the sharper team Monday night but they put Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw in the rearview mirror.
Not only did the Padres hand Kershaw only his seventh loss in 28 career decisions against San Diego, they got four runs on five hits in a span of 11 batters against the Dodgers’ top-ranked, National League bullpen.
There is now a chance that the Padres could be leading the National League West when the Dodgers leave town Wednesday night. Even if they are not, they are nearing their first playoff opportunity since 2006. The Padres’ magic number to land a playoff berth: Five.
“We just keep grinding,” said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. “We felt something good was going to happen (Monday night). We’ve had good energy all year. And that’s a good way to start the series for sure.”
And Tuesday night the Padres will send out one of their best grinders in right-hander Zach Davies (7-2, 2.48 ERA) against Dodgers right-hander Tony Gonsolin (0-1, 1.57).
Davies has a decision in all nine of his starts this season and is on a five-game winning streak. During that streak, Davies has allowed 12 runs (eight earned) on 21 hits and 12 walks with 32 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings for a 2.27 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP.
Davies has a 3-2 career record against the Dodgers with a 2.08 ERA, a 0.99 WHIP and a .217 opponents’ batting average in seven starts. He has given up 10 runs to the Dodgers on 34 hits and nine walks with 35 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings.
Both of Tuesday’s starters faced the other team — and each other — once previously this season on Aug. 12 at Dodger Stadium in a game won by the Dodgers 6-0. It was one of the two losses suffered by Davies, who gave up two runs on four hits and two walks with five strikeouts in seven innings. Gonsolin allowed three hits and a walk with eight strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings.
The Padres have yet to score against Gonsolin in two meetings, including the one start last month, over the past two seasons. He has allowed the Padres three hits and a walk with 11 strikeouts in a total of 6 2/3 innings.
Gonsolin has become a key performer in the Dodgers’ injury-riddled rotation. He has given up six runs (five earned) on 18 hits and six walks with 28 strikeouts over 28 2/3 innings in six appearances (five starts) for a 0.84 WHIP.
–Field Level Media