The Los Angeles Dodgers can clinch a playoff spot on Sunday with a win in San Diego against the Padres or a loss by the Milwaukee Brewers.
And they’re closing in on winning the National League West, their magic number reduced to four. They are seeking their ninth division crown in 10 seasons.
But the Padres have plenty to play for, and will be aiming to win their first series against the Dodgers in eight tries on Sunday before what is expected to be a record 25th sellout crowd of the season at Petco Park.
The Dodgers have won seven straight series against the Padres and will look to match the eight straight versus San Diego accomplished by the franchise over the 2014-16 seasons.
Los Angeles enters the rubber match of Sunday’s three-games series 19 games ahead of the second-place Padres in their division. The Padres are sitting in the third, and final, wild-card spot, three games up on the Brewers.
Both managers see the importance of a series win.
“If you win every series of a season, you’re champions,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts noted earlier this summer, since everything in baseball is based on series, from the first series of the season through the World Series.
As for the Padres (77-63), a series win over the Dodgers (95-43) might add to some late-season momentum.
“There’s a lot of plusses going into the postseason as a wild card team,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said recently. “A lot of times, the wild-card teams are playing the best baseball at the end of the season because the intensity is there every day. When you get to the postseason as a wild card team, it already feels like you’ve been in the postseason”
As for the late-season play of his Padres, Melvin said: “Our offense has picked up. We’re playing cleaner games as far as the defense goes. We’re timing things a little bit better, like we did earlier in the season. We’ve won some one-run games. We’ve won some games where we’ve hit a little bit. We’re finding ways to win in different fashions. We’re doing different facets on different days to win games. We’re starting to see some contagiousness in the offense.”
Sunday afternoon’s matchup features Dodgers left-hander Andrew Heaney (2-2, 2.94 ERA) against Padres’ right-hander Joe Musgrove (9-6, 3.16).
Heaney will be facing the Padres for the second time this season and is 1-0 against San Diego in his career with a 0.95 ERA — giving up two earned runs in 19 innings with four walks and 15 strikeouts. Heaney is averaging 13.5 strikeouts per nine innings in his 11 starts in 2022.
Heaney has been on the injured list twice this season with eight of his starts coming since his most recent return on July 27.
When Heaney faced the Padres on Aug. 6, he gave up three runs (none earned) on four hits and a walk with three strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings. At the time, Heaney’s ERA was 0.64.
Over his past four starts, Heaney has given up 10 homers in 21 innings with a 5.57 ERA. In his most recent start on Monday, Heaney allowed six runs on six hits (including four homers) in 5 1/3 innings of a 7-4 loss to the San Francisco Giants.
“The main thing with the homers is that he’s making mistakes in the middle of the plate,” Roberts said. “He’s predominantly a two-pitch pitcher, fastball and slider. I think there’s some things we can clean up moving forward. The slider command is really good.”
Musgrove has faced the Dodgers once this season, allowing three runs on five hits and a walk with 10 strikeouts in seven innings. Two of the hits were home runs. That loss on June 30 was the second in a string of six consecutive losses suffered by Musgrove after an 8-0 start.
Although some of his struggles have continued, the Padres have won four straight games started by Musgrove and are 17-8 in his 25 starts. But Musgrove hasn’t completed seven innings since Aug. 9 and in his start last Tuesday, he gave up five runs (four earned) on nine hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Musgrove gave up three homers in that game and has given up at least one home run in eight of his past nine games.
–Field Level Media