If the Padres are going to make their long-awaited leap into the ranks of National League contenders, they know which team offers the best barometer.
The seven-time reigning NL West champion Dodgers descend on Petco Park for a three-game series beginning Monday. It's an early test for the Padres against a perennial powerhouse -- the rival they're trying to unseat in the division.
When the Padres announced their season-opening rotation, it was also an acknowledgement that -- if things went according to plan -- they'd have their top three starters lined up for the Dodgers series after two trips through.
"They're holding each other accountable; they're pushing each other," said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. "... It's a healthy team competition they have amongst themselves. When you're getting pushed by others, that usually brings out the best in people."
Said Paddack, who will be facing the Dodgers at home for the first time: "This is our best matchup for where we want to get to in October. Why not let it be me, Lamet and Richards, Game 1, 2 and 3? We're excited. We're ready to go."
In 2019, the first-place Dodgers finished 36 games ahead of the last-place Padres, winning 13 of 19 meetings. Los Angeles has since added Mookie Betts to the mix, after San Diego also pursued the star right fielder during the offseason.
“We're going to see where we're at,” said Padres right fielder Wil Myers. “Everybody knows the Dodgers are a great team. We feel like we're a great team, as well. We're excited for that challenge.”
An expanded playoff field lessens the necessity of the Padres beating the Dodgers during the regular season, because at least two teams qualify from every division. But that certainly doesn't minimize the importance of the series this week in the Padres’ eyes. They know it’s the first litmus test regarding just how far they’ve closed that NL West gap.
"You look at their lineup and see a lot of big-time names," Paddack said. "But ... just because it's a big-time lineup and a team that we've been trying to beat for the past couple years now, we're not scared. I think it's the opposite. We're showing MLB and we're showing ourselves that this year is our year."
• The Padres selected the contract of right-hander Jerad Eickhoff, adding him to their roster in the spot left vacant by first baseman Eric Hosmer, who was placed on the 10-day injured list on Saturday. Eickhoff, who posted a 4.15 ERA over five seasons with the Phillies, traveled with the team to Colorado as part of the taxi squad. He'll occupy a place in the bullpen as a long man.