The Padres have arrived, and this series could help decide the 2020 NL West

Photo: Sarah Wexler

There are 13 games left in the Dodgers’ season, if you can believe it. They’re playing .700 baseball (113-win pace), yet hold just a 2 1/2-game lead over the upstart Padres. And, because the baseball world (and universe, really) is the way it is, the Dodgers travel to San Diego for what is now a huge 3-game series.

The Padres are fresh off a doubleheader sweep of the Giants after a false positive COVID-19 test postponed games on Friday and Saturday. Because of that, the Dodgers get to face Dinelson Lamet tonight instead of anyone but Lamet, who has been incredible this season.

The Dodgers are coming off a split with the Astros, in what should have been a sweep if not for Saturday’s meltdown.

This series could go a long way in deciding the National League West. For the Dodgers, the prospect of an 8th consecutive division title is on the line. But in a season when home field means less than it already did in baseball, if they don’t win the division, it isn’t the end of the world. Don’t get me wrong, I still want the Dodgers to win the division. I still think they will. But if they don’t, we as a fan base don’t need to lose our collective shit.

For the Padres, they’re going to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006. They’re either right on schedule or slightly ahead of schedule with their rebuild. It’s been a long time coming, but they’re here and they aren’t going away anytime soon.

If SD sweeps, they’d take over sole possession of first place with nine games left on their schedule (10 for LA). If they take two of three, they’d close to within 1 1/2 games of first place. If LA sweeps or wins the series, it would increase the likelihood of them claiming their 8th straight division title.

With the Dodgers’ rotation a bit in shambles, this could end up being a tougher series than most are hoping or expecting. Dustin May will probably start on Wednesday after a comebacker-shortened outing in Arizona last time out. Tony Gonsolin is starting Tuesday. It’s anyone’s guess as to who’s starting tonight. Coming off a bullpen game last night, we might be looking at another tonight. (Side note: It’d be super fun to see Josiah Gray, but that’s a pipe dream more than anything). Update: It’s Clayton Kershaw.

Following up Lamet is likely to be Dodger-killer Zach Davies. They could also come back with Chris Paddack on Wednesday, who left his last start with a sprained ankle.

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This isn’t going to be an easy series for the Dodgers to win. They have the best run differential in the game (+109), but they’re followed by the Padres (+78). And these teams could meet each other in the National League Division Series — a 5-gamer. That’s a bit terrifying knowing the Friars can throw Lamet, Davies and Mike Clevinger or Paddack, but that also assume the Dodgers don’t drop that ridiculous 3-game, 1st-round series to the Giants, which we know they will.

Oh, and the Padres have the odds-on favorite for NL MVP in Fernando Tatis Jr., who I can’t believe I’m just mentioning now. Manny Machado is hitting like he’s capable of and Wil Myers has revived his career.

Bottom line is, this is going to be tough. But the Dodgers are, to use a tired term, battle-tested. The Padres, to use another tired term, have nothing to lose. We could be looking at the beginning of a real rivalry. The Dodgers haven’t had much stiff competition over the last seven years in the division, but that appears to be changing.

This should be a competitive series and a probable postseason preview.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.