SAN DIEGO -- For all the strides the Padres have made this season, the best barometer for their progress has always been their performance against the Dodgers, the gold standard in the National League West for seven seasons running.
So, naturally, it stung when the Friars dropped two of three this week, giving the Dodgers a 6-4 edge in the season series -- and a clear path to an eighth straight division title.
But the story doesn't end with Wednesday's 7-5 loss at Petco Park.
"Obviously they won the series today, and they won the series on the year," said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. "... But every game, for the most part, has been very competitive, could go either way. I think we can go toe-to-toe with them."
Come October, Tingler could find out definitively.
For the first time in 14 years, the Padres are almost certainly headed to the postseason. If they can survive a three-game Wild Card Series -- and if the Dodgers can, too -- they're on a collision course for the NL Division Series in Arlington, Texas.
Here are three things we learned this week about a potential postseason matchup between the Padres and the Dodgers:
In Games 1 and 2, the Padres are content to send that duo against, say, Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler.
"The type of baseball we're capable of playing -- with the lineup and the arms we have, rotation and out of the 'pen -- it's a pretty special group," said catcher Jason Castro. "I think there's no doubt we can easily be right there with them."
Lamet has made two starts against Los Angeles this season, and he's been dominant in both. He carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning in early August. Then, on Monday, he became the only pitcher to strike out 10 Dodgers in a game this year. (He punched out 11.)
Clevinger, meanwhile, has never faced the Dodgers. Given his unconventional pitching style, it might play to the Padres' advantage that Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Joc Pederson, Chris Taylor and AJ Pollock have never faced him.
2. These teams don't like each other
The regular-season series between the Padres and Dodgers produced plenty of drama. Now, imagine these two NL West rivals meeting in October, and multiply that drama tenfold.
Earlier this season, both teams took issue with controversial plays at the plate. Fernando Tatis Jr. collided with Dodgers catcher Will Smith during a rundown, and Turner took exception. A week later, Taylor plowed into former Padres backstop Austin Hedges, sparking some heated words.
On Monday night, those old tensions bubbled back up when Trent Grisham enjoyed a home run off Kershaw, too long for the Dodgers' liking. When Dustin May whiffed Grisham in a key spot on Wednesday, May hopped off the mound, pounded his glove and screamed.
The entire season series has made for excellent theater. Come October, the stakes -- and presumably the tensions -- will only be higher.
3. The Padres need to figure out the back of their rotation
Lamet, Clevinger and presumably Zach Davies are lined up for the Wild Card Series. That trio would also be able to start Games 1, 2 and 3 if the Padres reach the NLDS. But San Diego will need more than three arms to make a deep October run.
With no off-days in the five-game Division Series, the Padres need to fill the fourth spot in their rotation. On Wednesday, they got a taste of what a bullpen day against the Dodgers might look like, and it wasn't pretty. A procession of nine San Diego pitchers -- the most for a nine-inning game in franchise history -- combined to allow seven runs.
That fourth starter role probably falls to Chris Paddack, who will return from his ankle sprain Friday against Seattle. After a roller-coaster season, Paddack will get two -- maybe three -- starts to find a groove before the playoffs.
Garrett Richards was an option, too, but the Padres used him out of the bullpen on Wednesday. With several off-days down the stretch, Richards will stay there -- through the Wild Card Series at least. The Padres want as many electric arms as they can pack into their bullpen for those three games.
"It doesn't matter who you play," Tingler said. "They're going to be hard-fought games, and they're going to be hard series to win. We want to be a part of that."
The Padres could lock up their place as soon as this weekend.