Dodgers, Padres meet for weekend series in Mexico

Two of the top young pitching prospects in the National League West are matched for the first time Friday night in … Monterrey, Mexico.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres open a three-game series in Mexico on Friday night with right-hander Walker Buehler starting for the Dodgers against left-hander Joey Lucchesi of the Padres.

Buehler is rated the No. 1 pitching prospect in the Dodgers system. Lucchesi is the No. 7 pitching prospect in the Padres system.

The 23-year-old Buehler was the Dodgers’ first-round pick (24th overall) in the 2015 draft out of Vanderbilt University. The 6-foot-2, 175-pounder made his major league debut last season and finished with a 7.71 earned run average in eight relief appearances. He will be making his third start this season.

Lucchesi was San Diego’s fourth-round draft pick in 2016 out of Southwest Missouri State. The 6-foot-5, 227-pounder made his major league debut in the Padres’ second game this season, gaining his promotion from Triple-A when right-hander Dinelson Lamet went on the disabled list for eventual Tommy John surgery.

Buehler is 1-0 with a 1.80 earned run average in his two starts, each of which lasted five innings. He has allowed two runs on 10 hits and four walks with 11 strikeouts. He has a 1.40 WHIP in a small sample size.

Lucchesi’s sample size is much larger. He has made six starts and worked 32 1/3 innings. He is 3-1 and has given up 26 hits and 10 walks for a 1.11 WHIP to go with his 2.78 ERA. He is the only San Diego pitcher with a winning record and his ERA is the lowest among the Padres starters.

Both Buehler and Lucchesi were winners in their last outings with near identical lines. Buehler gave up two runs to the Giants in San Francisco. Lucchesi held the Mets to two runs in 5 2/3 innings at Petco Park in San Diego.

However, the venue for the first meeting of Buehler and Lucchesi could steal the show.

Two teams with strong ties to Mexico will be meeting for the first time in the country. This will be the Padres’ fourth trip to Mexico since 1996 and their third to Monterrey. This is not the first time the Padres and Dodgers explored a foreign land together. They played an exhibition series in China in 2008.

“Everybody feels it is incredibly important to spread baseball internationally,” said San Diego manager Andy Green. “Baseball in Mexico, baseball in Latin America, it’s the No. 1 game down there. I know some people might argue soccer, but from my perspective it’s baseball.

“For us, this weekend is an opportunity to go to another place and share Major League Baseball with the world. We hope we have a ton of fans in Mexico.”

Twenty-two years ago, the Padres and New York Mets played a historic three-game series in Monterrey. They were the first two teams to play a major league series outside of the continental United States or Canada.

The winner of the first game in that series for the Padres was Fernando Valenzuela, a Mexican native who originally became a superstar with the Dodgers.

This time the Padres return with another player who has excited Mexico’s baseball fans. Third baseman Christian Villanueva on Wednesday was named the National League Rookie of the Month for hitting .321 with eight homers during the season’s first month.