Padres-Dodgers Preview

In the running for NL MVP, Clayton Kershaw has proven nearly automatic for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

He’s made it look easy against the San Diego Padres.

Kershaw tries to become baseball’s first 18-game winner as the West-leading Dodgers open a three-game home set against the scuffling Padres on Monday night.

Kershaw (17-3, 1.70 ERA) has been on another level since the beginning of June, leading Los Angeles to victory in all but one of 17 starts. The two-time Cy Young Award winner has thrown at least eight innings in seven of his last eight while recording one shutout and three complete games.

"You always want to be consistent," he said. "You try to give your team a chance. When you only get to contribute once every five days it’s important for the starting pitcher to get some momentum."

Kershaw was brilliant again Tuesday, throwing eight innings of one-run ball in a 4-1 win over Washington. He’s won three consecutive starts behind a 0.75 ERA.

"Just take my quotes from last game," manager Don Mattingly joked. "He spoils us, that’s for sure. He’s just so valuable for us."

Kershaw has also posted a 0.75 ERA in winning three straight starts against San Diego, including both this year while allowing a combined two runs and striking out 21 over 17 innings.

Cameron Maybin is 2 for 21 against Kershaw and Jedd Gyorko is 1 for 9.

The Dodgers (81-62) are looking to win four in a row after sweeping Arizona over the weekend to open a three-game lead over San Francisco in the West. Adrian Gonzalez hit a pair of three-run homers and Matt Kemp added a solo shot in Sunday’s 7-2 victory.

Gonzalez is batting .396 with five homers and 17 RBIs over his last 13 games. He has 100 RBIs on the season to rank second in the league, matching his total from 2013.

"I think he’s been our most consistent hitter throughout the year," Kemp told MLB’s official website. "It’s pretty clutch hitting. He knows how to drive in runs, and we need those kinds of guys on our team."

Gonzalez, who spent five years with the Padres from 2006-10, is hitting .213 with one homer and seven RBIs over a 20-game stretch against his former team.

San Diego (66-76) is on the verge of its longest losing streak of the season after dropping five straight by a 27-8 score. The Padres were twice shut out at Colorado over the weekend, including a 6-0 loss in Sunday’s finale.

"Our bats have sort of gone silent for the most part over the last week," manager Bud Black said. "We’ve got to turn that around. Same group that was scoring some runs after the break, we’re in a little bit of a downturn right now. We’ve got to get that headed in the right direction offensively with some of the guys who are here in September."

San Diego will try to bounce back behind rookie Odrisamer Despaigne (3-5, 3.06), who yielded one run and four hits over seven innings in Tuesday’s 2-1 walkoff victory over the Diamondbacks. The right-hander has posted a 1.29 ERA in his last two starts but hasn’t received a decision thanks to receiving a combined two runs of support.

While Despaigne owns a 2.11 ERA at home, he’s compiled a 5.68 ERA in dropping four consecutive road decisions. He gave up both runs over seven innings opposite Kershaw in a 2-1 loss at Dodger Stadium on July 10.