The two best teams in baseball clash for the first time this season as the world champion Los Angeles Dodgers head to San Diego to face their No. 1 contender, the Padres.
It’s rare to have a showdown in April that causes the rest of baseball to stop and watch. Even the Yankees-Red Sox clashes of the glory days of the early 21st century didn’t really start to move the needle until summer. But when the two best teams in baseball clash in Petco Park over the weekend, the sport will give the series anticipation worthy of a heavyweight title fight.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Diego Padres
Friday, 16 April 2021, 10:10 PM ET at Petco Park
The Dodgers have dominated the National League West in recent years and are expected to dominate everyone in MLB this year, after adding a reigning Cy Young winner to the team that won the World Series last year. The team most equipped to derail the Dodgers’s bid for a repeat is in the same division. The San Diego Padres have a young roster full of up and coming stars and added more talent in the offseason. Making an enticing matchup even better is the news that San Diego should be getting back the most exciting player in baseball to start the series.
The Champ Is Here
The Dodgers are used to spotlight games after making three World Series appearances, winning one, in the last four years. Facing their first legitimate challenger in the division in years, the Dodgers have been as good as advertised to start the year. Los Angeles has jumped out to a 10-2 record, the best in baseball, and come into the series in San Diego winners of five straight, heading into Thursday night’s game.
The Dodgers lead MLB in wRC+, with an offense 39 percent better than the average team. The Dodgers’ fast start is even more impressive considering the fact that they’ve been battling injuries to their best players. Mookie Betts was held out of the starting lineup on Thursday with back trouble that has kept him out of six of the Dodgers’ 13 games.
Cody Bellinger, like Betts a former MVP, has missed nine of the 13 games with a left calf contusion that sent him to the injured list. Betts homered in his first game back in the lineup on Tuesday and is expected to return after a Thursday night breather for the Padres series. Bellinger is eligible to go back on the active roster at some point during the series, although manager Dave Roberts isn’t sure what the timetable for his return will be. He’s swinging the bat with no pain but still can’t run full out. Bellinger is making the trip to San Diego with the team, however.
Walker Buehler gets things started for the Dodgers this weekend. He’s 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in his first two starts.
Ready to Challenge For the Title
The Padres enter the series tied for second in the west, with the surprising Giants. San Diego won five of seven games on the just-completed road trip, it’s best performance away from home for a stretch that long in 15 years. The San Diego offense showed signs of life, with four extra base hits in the first inning on Thursday and a 4-of-11 performance with runners in scoring position, after going 13-for-77 in those situations in the previous 10 games.
The offense promises to get even better. Fernando Tatis Jr., who has been on the 10-day injured list after aggravating a shoulder injury swinging the bat, is expected to be activated before Friday’s game. He passed his final test on Thursday with a successful batting practice before the game. He was struggling early this year, hitting .167 with .319 OPS and one home run before the injury. But his presence back in uniform should lift a team that has seen its runs per game drop from 4.4 with Tatis in the lineup to 3.5 without him.
San Diego will start rookie left hander Ryan Weathers. It will be his first career start after going 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA in three relief appearances.
The Dodgers have a more talented roster. They’re the hotter team. They’re in a better position with their returning injured players, and they have a lopsided advantage in the pitching matchup on Friday. For our MLB pick, look for L.A. to jump on the rookie, Weathers, and spoil his first MLB start.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.