The Los Angeles Dodgers are in unprecedented territory as they make a final push for a ninth consecutive National League West title, opening their final homestand of the season Tuesday against the San Diego Padres.
While winning their previous eight straight division titles, the Dodgers never trailed in the standings over the final week of the season, although they did have to go to a 163rd game in 2018 after the Colorado Rockies caught them down the stretch.
The Dodgers will head into play Tuesday trailing the first-place San Francisco Giants by two games with six to play.
At the very least, the Dodgers already have wrapped up at least a spot in the NL’s wild-card playoff game. But despite a dominating lead in the wild-card standings, they could end up facing the red-hot St. Louis Cardinals in a winner-take-all game if they can’t chase down the Giants.
Los Angeles right-hander Walker Buehler (14-4, 2.58 ERA) will take the mound Tuesday, but he has been in a bit of a lull of late. Buehler is just 1-2 with a 7.32 ERA in four September starts.
Buehler’s only September victory did come against the Padres on Sept. 11, but he is coming off an outing Wednesday at Colorado when he gave up five runs on seven hits in 3 2/3 innings in his second start during the stretch where he did not last four innings.
“For me, it’s one of those things where I’m kind of trying to get back to who I am and what I’m trying to do,” Buehler said. “These past four haven’t been up to what I want. I think going forward, we have to figure it out and get ready to go.”
A matchup against the Padres figures to help. In nine career starts against San Diego, Buehler is 5-0 with a 1.66 ERA and has 71 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings.
Finally eliminated from playoff contention after a late-season swoon, the Padres will face a Dodgers team they dominated early in the season. San Diego won seven of eight games against the Dodgers at one point but has gone 0-6 against them since.
The Padres will send former Dodger Yu Darvish (8-10, 4.21) to the mound Tuesday. Darvish is on a stretch of starts against baseball’s hottest teams. He gave up a combined 12 runs in two starts against the Giants, while holding the Cardinals scoreless over seven innings on Sept. 18.
In four starts against the Dodgers this season, Darvish is 2-2 with a 2.42 ERA. He’s 2-2 overall in five career starts vs. Los Angeles with a 2.18 ERA.
With three more games left against the Giants after this week’s three-game series in L.A., the Padres will focus on making an impact on the division race as a spoiler.
Fernando Tatis Jr. was not in the San Diego starting lineup Sunday against the Atlanta Braves, but the Padres intend to close out the season with their regulars on the field.
“We’ve got a group of professionals in there,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said. “We’ve got to finish up this last week. We’re playing teams that are playing for divisions and playoff spots, and we owe it to ourselves to finish out. We owe it to the game, the integrity of the game. We’ve got to go out and play ball.”
–Field Level Media