The Padres will try to play that role on Tuesday as the two teams square off at Dodger Stadium. They nearly did that on Monday, with it taking 11 innings before the Dodgers got a 4-3 victory to stay 4 1/2 games back of the Giants in the NL West.
"They are playing well. They've always played well. Even when you are beating teams early in the year, they were all 4-3 and 3-2," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "These guys are right there. Bud [Black] has done a great job and they play hard. It's going to be a battle."
Left-hander Clayton Kershaw will be on the mound for the Dodgers, ready to continue his dominance against the Padres this season. He's 1-0 with a 2.51 ERA in three starts against San Diego, allowing just four earned runs in 14 1/3 innings.
In his previous outing against the D-backs, Kershaw was a tough-luck loser, taking his eighth loss of the season after giving up two runs in six innings in a 2-0 Arizona win. While Kershaw was sharp during the outing, he tossed 110 pitches and got knocked out earlier then he would have liked.
"He's one of the best pitchers in the game and we did a good job of working him," Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said after the game. "He had 33 pitches through the first two innings and then we worked him for 23 and 22 and got his pitch count up and got him into some extended innings."
Meanwhile, Eric Stults will make his first career start against his former club as he goes for his third straight win.
Stults, who pitched in the Dodgers' organization from 2006-09, has gone 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA since rejoining the Padres' rotation on Aug. 6., compiling 18 strikeouts and walking just five in five outings.
On Wednesday against the Braves, the left-hander allowed just one unearned run on five hits in six innings. He also struck out five, improving to 5-2 on the season with a 2.45 ERA.
"He's been tremendous," teammate Chase Headley said. "He keeps us in every game, he works quick, he throws strikes."
Padres: Quentin scratched from opener
Left fielder Carlos Quentin was a late scratch in Monday's game against the Dodgers because of right knee irritation. However, he did pinch-hit in the top of the 11th inning, lining out to center field.
Quentin, who had surgery on the same knee in Spring Training, was busy in left field for the Padres over the weekend in Colorado making plays on fly balls and racking up base hits.
"A lot of action in left in Colorado," Black said before Monday's game. "It's a flare-up,"
Fort Wayne outfielder Yeison Asencio captured the batting title for the Padres' Class A affiliate on Monday, becoming the first player in the organization to win a full-season batting title since Headley hit .330 for Double-A San Antonio in 2007.
Asencio, 22, had one hit in two at-bats in the first game of a doubleheader against Bowling Green on the final day of the regular season to finish with a .323 average. He edged Kevin Pillar of Lansing by a single point (.322).
Dodgers: Jansen to meet with doctors
Closer Kenley Jansen, who is out indefinitely with a recurrence of an irregular heartbeat, was scheduled to meet with doctors Tuesday morning to find out whether he'll be out for the remainder of the season or if he can pitch as early as Friday against the Giants.
Jansen has continued to stay in shape but is doing so without the rest of the team because he cannot run the risk of being hit by an incoming ball.
Mattingly, who believes Jansen's health comes first, is prepared to go with relievers Brandon League and Ronald Belisario in the closer role if Jansen has to be shut down.
"You can't say you can go without Kenley and be as good," Mattingly said. "But that doesn't mean you can't get it done. It'll be a challenge, but you just have to make things work. It's like playing without Matt [Kemp]. We were able to win some games with some of our guys hurt, but you know you're not as good."
Padres starter Andrew Cashner, who missed 51 games with a strained right lat muscle, will start Friday against the D-backs at Petco Park. With Cashner starting, the Padres will use a six-man rotation.
Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier is batting .457 (21-for-46) with three doubles, four home runs and 10 RBIs in his last 12 games.