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Padres hold rare NL West lead entering series with Dodgers

Sports Xchange - Monday 16th April, 2018

SAN DIEGO -- There aren't any firsts happening at Petco Park on Monday when the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres open a three-game series.

But there are a couple of things going on that haven't happened in so long that they qualify as near firsts.

One, the Padres and the Dodgers start a series with San Diego ahead in the National League West standings for the first time in almost five seasons.

Two, Robbie Erlin will be making his first start for the Padres since April 17, 2016.

And Monday will mark the first time since 2013 that the Padres and Dodgers haven't met on the Opening Day. Those matchups didn't go very well for the Padres.

Before this season, the Dodgers had won the last three season openers between the southern California rivals, the two most recent by scores of 15-0 and 14-3.

The all-left-handed opening matchup of the series will be Erlin coming out of the bullpen to make a spot start against the Dodgers' Hyun-Jin Ryu, who has a 1-0 record with a 2.79 ERA in his first two starts this year. Opposing hitters are batting only .176 against Ryu, who allowed six hits while issuing six walks in 9 2/3 innings.

Erlin, 27, will be filling the spot in the Padres' rotation left open while right-hander Luis Perdomo serves a five-day suspension for throwing behind Nolan Arenado last Wednesday afternoon and triggering a brawl at Coors Field in Colorado.

Erlin has made five relief appearances for the Padres, allowing three runs, seven hits and a walk with nine strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings for a 2.38 ERA. He threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings Friday night against the San Francisco Giants. He earlier had a 3 2/3-inning outing in relief.

Erlin made the Opening Day roster out of spring training after not pitching since a six-inning start against Arizona on April 17, 2016. Exactly one month later, Erlin had Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery and missed the entire 2017 season.

Although Erlin hasn't pitched against the Dodgers since 2015, he has had some success. He is 1-1 lifetime against Los Angeles with a 1.17 ERA in three games (two starts).

The Dodgers have hit .173 against Erlin with a .204 on-base percentage. He has allowed nine hits and a walk against the Dodgers with 12 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings.

"Robbie proved in spring training that he's ready to pitch again in the major leagues," Padres manager Andy Green said. "The one thing we couldn't do is get him stretched out. But he has made three longer relief appearances."

Erlin has a 5-3 record at Petco Park with a 2.71 ERA in 17 appearances (13 starts).

Ryu last pitched on April 10 against Oakland at Dodger Stadium, where he gave up one hit in six scoreless innings, picking up the win in the Dodgers' 4-0 victory. He struck out eight against one walk on 90 pitches.

Ryu last faced the Padres on Aug. 12, when he allowed three runs and seven hits in five innings. He struck out five against two walks.

In seven career starts against the Padres, Ryu has gone 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA while limiting San Diego batters to a .234 average with a 1.07 WHIP.

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