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Padres bring positive buzz into weekend clash

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

The Padres are hosting the Dodgers at Petco Park the next three days with first place in the National League West on the line.

First place.

This is certainly different from past Aprils. How different? Well, the Dodgers pushed back right-hander Zack Greinke a day so that he could pitch Friday night's series opener at Petco Park.

Is too soon to put a playoff face on?

Wins and losses in April count just as much as those in September. Just ask members of the 2010 Padres, who missed the playoffs by a game and still remember a game they gave away in June in Houston.

So what better time to make a statement -- and establish your home-field advantage?

The Padres have always played the Dodgers tough at home. Since Petco Park opened, the Padres are 49-51 against the Dodgers in San Diego. Last year, the Padres were 4-5 against the Dodgers at Petco Park, but only 7-12 overall.

Of course, Friday night's first game of the series features a rematch of Padres right-handed starter Andrew Cashner and Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

On April 8, in the season's third game of the season at Dodger Stadium, Gonzalez hit three homers off Cashner. Those are the only three home runs allowed by Cashner this season -- and represent three of the five earned runs he has allowed.

Gonzlez was 10-for-13 in that season-opening series, with five home runs and seven RBIs as the Dodgers won two of three games.

Gonzalez still leads the NL in hitting (.414) and is tied for first in home runs (six) and second in RBIs (15). San Diego's Yonder Alonso is second in the league in hitting (.400) and Matt Kemp is third in RBIs (14).

Notes from the scorebook

• Right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne on Wednesday became only the fifth Padres pitcher since 1990 to appear as a starter and a relief pitcher in the same series. The others were Calvin Schiraldi (1990), Tim Worrell ('96), Brian Lawrence (2001) and Chad Gaudin ('09). Despaigne picked up a win in Monday's series opener at Coors Field, allowing two runs on six hits and two walks with five strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings. He got the final out in the last of the eighth Thursday afternoon, hours after it was announced that Ian Kennedy was returning to the starting rotation Saturday and Despaigne would be returning to the bullpen.

• Alonso now has San Diego's longest active hitting streak at six games. He is 11-for-22 during the streak, with four RBIs and four runs. The streak has raised Alonso's batting average to an even .400 (22-for-55) on the season. Alvarez ranks second in the Major Leagues in hitting and on-base percentage (.485 thanks to nine walks and a hit-by-pitch). Alonso has reached base in 15 of his 16 starts.

Will Middlebrooks' eight-game hitting streak ended at Coors Field on Thursday afternoon, when he fouled out as a pinch-hitter.

• Infielder Cory Spangenberg doubled in three straight games at Coors Field while going 4-for-6 with an RBI and a run. Two of those doubles came as a pinch-hitter. In two starts this season, Spangenberg is 3-for-7 with a double. He is 2-for-7 as a pinch-hitter, with the two doubles.

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