The last time the Dodgers played the Padres, the series was viewed as a possible springboard to a season that had sputtered out of the gate. The Dodgers had just taken two of three from the first-place Diamondbacks and easily swept San Diego earlier in the year.
Sure, the Dodgers started that weekend with their first combined no-hitter in franchise history. The fact they were within two games of .500 and were now winners of three in a row was enough to think they had righted the ship.
But then Saturday happened.
It wasn’t as much the game that day, even though they had a 4-3 lead going into the bottom of the sixth before the bullpen gave up four runs in three innings to eventually lose 7-4. It was the chain of events that started that day.
The Dodgers learned two days prior Hyun-jin Ryu was going on the DL with a groin injury that will keep him out until after the All-Star break. They would get even worse news when Clayton Kershaw left Mexico on Saturday to meet with team doctors, where it was determined the lefty would miss significant time with biceps tendinitis.
All this right after it was announced earlier in the week that Corey Seager would miss the rest of the season due to Tommy John Surgery.
That Saturday started a run of nine losses in 10 games. That meant they had now lost 16 of 21, had a rotation in shambles and were still missing Justin Turner.
Even with all that, this series has a different flavor to it. The Dodgers are coming off two series wins in a row where they swept the Nationals on the road and took two of three from the first-place Rockies.
Kershaw finished up a successful bullpen Wednesday that carries him to the next step, a simulated game Saturday at Dodger Stadium.
There is now just a 3.5-game gap in the standings between them and first place, the closest they’ve been since 10 games into the season back on April 10.
There is hope again.
Part of that hope has been Turner making his season debut and adding a presence to the lineup it was lacking. But another part has been the solid work on the mound by Ross Stripling and Walker Buehler.
Friday, 7:10 p.m. PT (SportsNet LA)
The do-it-all swiss army style pitcher on the staff, Stripling is coming off six shutout innings in his last start in Washington. In three starts, the 28-year-old has surrendered only three runs while striking out 21 with only two walks.
Clayton Richard will make his 24th career start against the Dodgers and the first this season. The left-hander has allowed three or fewer runs and pitched into the eighth inning in each of his last three starts.
Saturday, 7:10 p.m. PT (SportsNet LA, MLB Network)
Alex Wood has been charged with two or fewer earned runs in seven of his 10 starts in 2018. The lefty has struck out 51 batters with only nine walks, the highest strikeout-to-walk ratio of his career.
Jordan Lyles will make his fourth start of the year after he appeared in 13 games as a reliever for the Padres early on. Lyles has struggled against the Dodgers over 15 career games (six starts), giving up 34 runs in 41 1⁄3 innings.
Sunday, 1:10 p.m. PT (SportsNet LA)
Buehler has given up two or fewer runs in five of his six starts this year and lasted seven innings his last time out. Sunday will be the first time an opponent gets a second look at Buehler in 2018 but the Padres have still yet to get a hit against him.
San Diego has yet to announce who will start Sunday’s game.