San Diego Padres: The Dodgers are coming, the Dodgers are coming

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June 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts (30) and the Dodgers celebrate the 6-2 victory against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
June 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts (30) and the Dodgers celebrate the 6-2 victory against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /
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The San Diego Padres have a tough task this weekend as they welcome in the Los Angeles Dodgers, their rivals who have dominated early meetings.

The $2 billion dollar bullies from the north return to Petco Park for a three game series against the San Diego Padres beginning Friday. In six games against the Dodgers so far this year, the Padres have won one with one postponed by rain.

As has been the norm lately, the season began against Los Angeles and Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers set the tone for the season winning 14-3. Center fielder Joc Pederson hit a grand slam, former Padre Yasmani Grandal two home runs, and shortstop (and National League Rookie of the Year for 2016) Corey Seager a three-run shot.

The Padres’ starter, Jhoulys Chacin, lasted 3 1/3 innings and gave up nine runs, a career high for the veteran pitcher. Kershaw dominated as usual, giving up two hits in seven innings.

The good news is that Kershaw will pitch the fourth game of the Freeway Series Thursday (against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim), so the Padres will be spared the inevitable humiliation of facing the major’s top ace. However they will face Alex Wood who has an 8-0 record, 1.86 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in the first game of the series, as well as Rich Hill (4-4) and Kenta Maeda (6-3).

Although the Colorado Rockies, who have invested heavily in pitching, held on to first place in the ultra competitive National League West for weeks, the Dodgers (52-28) have now taken over and lead the Arizona Diamondbacks by 1.5 games and the Rockies by 5.5. The Dodgers have almost caught up to the Houston Astros’ MLB-leading 53 win total.

The franchise has come along way from the disaster of the McCourt era, which ended in Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June 2011. The following year, former Laker Magic Johnson, longtime baseball executive Stan Kasten and Guggenheim Partners bought the team. Brian Soloman of Forbes Magazine confirmed that the “sum is the highest price any sports team has ever sold for — by a wide margin.”

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LA also raked in $8.3 billion for the rights to the local television broadcasts, which hasn’t worked out real well for many fans, who cannot watch the games. In fact, the opening day win against the Padres, broadcast on ESPN, was blacked out in Southern California. Although the t.v. deal has angered many fans, the Dodgers still lead all of baseball in attendance, averaging 44.632 per game and totally almost 2 million less than three months into the season.

When the Dodgers arrive in San Diego two key players will probably be back in the lineup. Right fielder Yasiel Puig and shortstop Seager, who had been sitting out with knee and hamstring problems, should return Thursday or Friday.

And then there’s Cody Bellinger, the 21-year-old phenom and rookie of the month in May. In 60 games, he has 60 hits, including 13 doubles and 24 home runs; 56 RBI, and a 2.5 WAR.

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Bellinger has taken over at first base for 35-year-old Adrian Gonzalez, who, ironically, had never been on the disabled list before this year. Suffering from a back injury, he probably won’t return until after the All-Star break. Before the injury the former Padre had been struggling, batting just .255 with a .309 slugging percentage.

“When their five-time All-Star first baseman returns to full health, he’ll of course want to reclaim his old job,” Jonah Keri of CBSsports.com wrote of the inevitable Dodger dilemma. “On the other hand, the Dodgers also have one of the most electrifying young players in baseball smashing everything in sight.”

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The San Diego Padres can only hope to have such a dilemma in the not so distant future.

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