Dodgers, Padres aim to continue ascent in NL West

LOS ANGELES — The bottom two teams in the National League West will square off at Dodger Stadium starting Friday and neither of them are feeling all that bad about their status heading into Memorial Day weekend.

The Dodgers are suddenly on a roll, and the five-time defending champions have no qualms over a slow start after winning six of their last seven games and moving to within 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Colorado Rockies.

The Padres have won six of their last 10 games, and even though they were perceived to be the team that likely would bring up the rear in the division, they are merely 5 1/2 games out of the top spot.

The Dodgers and Padres have met just once this season, in a memorable series at Monterrey, Mexico.

The Dodgers won the series opener on a combined no-hitter in a game started by rookie Walker Buehler on May 4, while the Padres won the series by rebounding to outscore the Dodgers 10-4 in the final two games.

Buhler will also start in this series, but his outing will come in Sunday’s finale. The Dodgers will send long man Ross Stripling (1-1, 2.08 ERA) to the mound in the series opener Friday.

Stripling has pitched in 15 games for the Dodgers this season, four of them starts. The right-hander helped start the Dodgers on their current run of success, giving up one run on four hits over six innings in the first game of a doubleheader against the Washington Nationals on Saturday.

Stripling’s last outing was the start of a three-game series sweep of the Nationals last weekend. Against the Padres lifetime, Stripling has made eight appearances (two starts) and is 1-3 with a 4.05 ERA.

The Padres will send Clayton Richard to the mound Friday as the left-hander is in the middle of a strong run where he has pitched into the eighth inning in each of his last three starts. The last Padres pitcher to complete at least seven innings in three consecutive starts was Drew Pomeranz in 2016.

Richard (3-5, 4.87) had not pitched more than seven innings until his eight-inning outing on May 8 against the Nationals. He has won each of his last two starts, giving up a combined four runs over 15 1/3 innings. Against the Dodgers lifetime, Richard is 7-7 with a 4.44 ERA in 25 games (23 starts).

The secret to Richard’s recent success has been simple.

“I’m attacking the glove, and usually the glove is in the strike zone,” Richard said, according to the San Diego Union Tribune. “So, it creates some good things.”

The Dodgers’ recent success has been a bit more complicated.

Matt Kemp has been the Dodgers best hitter of late and club has been buoyed by the return of Justin Turner (broken wrist). The bullpen has been better and closer Kenley Jansen is much improved having not allowed a run in any of his last eight outings after a rough start.

With nobody running away with things in the NL West, the Dodgers like their chances with more than four months remaining in the season.

“I still believe in our guys and expect us to win the division,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said this week, according to the Los Angeles Times. “I think that’s the most important thing. Whether it’s a runaway or it’s a one-game situation, I don’t know. But I still feel good about our club.”