SAN DIEGO — Since the Padres entered the National League as an expansion team in 1969, their neighbors to the north have regularly used San Diego as a stepping stone to success in the National League West.
Overall, the Dodgers have a one-sided, 457-391-1 edge in the “rivalry,” including Monday night’s 8-2 victory in the opener of a four-game series at Petco Park. Last season, the Dodgers were 13-6 against the Padres en route to a 104-58 record and the National League West title.
This season, the Dodgers are 7-3 against the Padres. And the Dodgers could move into the division lead Tuesday night with a second straight win over San Diego combined with an Arizona loss.
Tuesday night’s game will feature a match of left-handers — the Dodgers going with veteran Rich Hill (2-3, 4.56 earned run average) against Padres rookie Eric Lauer (4-5, 4.84 ERA).
While Hill has a longer history of strong starts against the Padres, Lauer’s best start as a Padre came against the Dodgers in his third major league outing on May 6 in Monterrey, Mexico. Lauer shut out the Dodgers on seven hits and a walk over six innings to pick up his first major league win in the Padres’ 3-0 victory.
Lauer entered that game with a 10.13 ERA. And while he was hit hard in three of his next four starts, Lauer has rapidly developed as a starter since.
After posting a 7.67 ERA in April and May, Lauer has posted a 2.76 ERA in seven starts since the start of June. The 4.91 drop in ERA is the best improvement among all major league pitchers with at least 25 innings. Over his last seven starts, the 23-year-old Lauer — the 25th overall pick in the 2016 draft, has gone 3-2 while allowing 15 runs (11 earned) on 43 hits and 14 walks with 28 strikeouts in 37 2/3 innings.
“The difference is conviction,” Padres manager Andy Green said recently. “He knows he belongs. He knows if he makes good pitches, he can get major league hitters out.”
Hill has known about conviction for some time now — particularly against the Padres.
Tuesday night will be Hill’s ninth career start against the Padres. Over the first eight, he has gone 4-3 with a 3.18 ERA while limiting Padres hitters to a .184 opponents’ batting average. Over 45 1/3 innings against the Padres, Hill has averaged 11.12 strikeouts per nine innings while posting a 1.06 WHIP.
Hill will be facing the Padres for the first time in 2018. In his last outing against the Padres last Sept. 27, Hill worked seven scoreless innings. He allowed two hits and no walks while striking out 10.
Hill has made 10 starts for the Dodgers this season, but has worked only 47 1/3 innings. He has given up 25 runs (24 earned) on 48 hits and 17 walks with 51 strikeouts. Opponents have a .261 batting average against Hill this season with nine home runs. And while he is averaging 9.7 strikeouts per nine innings, his WHIP is an unusually high, for him, 1.37.