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Series Preview: Phillies and Dodgers open a four-game series

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Arizona Diamondbacks  v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Dodgers welcome the Phillies to town Monday for the start of a four-game series at Dodger Stadium. It will be the first look the Dodgers get at Gabe Kapler as a manager in the opposing dugout.

Kapler spent the previous three seasons working with Dodger minor leaguers as the director of player development. The 42-year-old was also a finalist for the Dodgers’ managerial opening after the 2015 season that ultimately went to Dave Roberts.

The Phillies arrive in Los Angeles with the third highest winning percentage (.580) in the National League, just a half-game out of first place in the NL East with a 29-21 record. Philadelphia’s last trip to Dodger Stadium resulted in the Dodgers’ first sweep of 2017 on the front end of an amazing stretch of 81 wins in 105 games for Los Angeles.

Who could forget the “absolute madness” in the second game of the series that saw the Dodgers hit three straight homers in the ninth?

Digging themselves out from a 5-2 deficit in the ninth, the Dodgers went on to win on their first walk-off of 10 total in 2017.

The big storyline coming into this series is Clayton Kershaw making his return to the mound on Thursday, having missed most of May with biceps tendinitis in his throwing arm.

“It’s a big lift, you’ve got our ace coming back,” Roberts said. “We’ve kind of righted the ship a little bit, trending in the right direction, getting him back every fifth day is obviously to compare it to kind of getting [Justin Turner] back on the position player front, it is pretty comparable.”

If you’re planning to be a part of the action this week, make sure to head over to StubHub and grab some seats.

The Dodgers have been inching their way back towards .500 in several ways over the last 10 days, winning eighth of the last 10 games. They are now 12-15 at home, 12-13 on the road and 24-28 overall as they look to finally break those barriers this week.

Here is how the teams line up on the mound this week.

Monday, 5:10 p.m. PT (SportsNet LA)

Brock Stewart will get his second start of the year which will likely be his last for some time considering Kershaw’s return. The right-hander has allowed four runs in nine and two-thirds innings this season, including two over four innings in his start last week in a 5-3 Dodgers win.

The Dodgers have had their way with Vince Velasquez in two previous starts. The right-hander has allowed 14 runs over those two games, including nine at Dodger Stadium in 2016 when he couldn’t make it out of the fifth inning.

Velasquez is 3-1 in May with a 2.08 ERA, giving up one or less earned runs in three of four starts.

Tuesday, 7:10 p.m. PT (SportsNet LA)

Kenta Maeda will be looking to continue his personal momentum when he takes the ball Tuesday. The 30-year-old hasn’t allowed a run the last two times out, giving up just four hits and four walks in 14 23 innings while striking out 20.

The Phillies have dropped four of the last five Jake Arrieta starts despite the right-hander’s 1.17 ERA in four May starts. Arrieta has only 35 strikeouts in his nine starts this season and has lasted four or less innings in three of those.

Wednesday, 7:10 p.m. PT (SportsNet LA)

Ross Stripling has been a bright spot in the Dodgers’ rotation, filling in quite nicely for all the injuries. The 28-year-old has gone 29 strikeouts since issuing his last walk back on May 6. Stripling has allowed only four runs (three earned) in four starts since being thrust into a starting role.

Zach Eflin has been lifted before completing the fifth inning in each of his last two starts, giving up 12 hits and 10 runs (seven earned) in nine and one-thirds innings. Eflin was actually acquired by the Dodgers in the Yasmani Grandal before immediately flipping him to Philadelphia for Jimmy Rollins back in 2014.

Thursday, 4:35 p.m. PT (SportsNet LA)

Clayton Kershaw will make his first start since May 1, returning from the disabled list to finish out the series. The lefty is 1-4 with a 2.86 ERA in 2018 and had given up nine runs in 18 innings over the last three starts before being sidelined. One would think that had a little to do with the biceps tendinitis Kershaw was dealing with.

It’s unclear how long Kershaw will last in his first start in nearly a month but Roberts seemed to believe he could go deep if he is throwing well.

Aaron Nola has been the ace of the staff the Phillies thought they had when they drafted him seventh overall in 2014. The 24-year-old is 6-2 with a 2.27 ERA and has allowed two or less runs in nine of his 11 starts this season. Nola has also been stingy in giving up just 53 hits in 71 13 innings of work.