The Los Angeles Dodgers are already looking ahead to the postseason, but Clayton Kershaw may have his sights set on another Cy Young Award.
Facing the San Diego Padres may not help.
Kershaw will try to help the Dodgers re-establish their success over the Padres by beating them for the first time this year Saturday night.
Los Angeles (88-66) is afforded the luxury of preparing for the postseason since it has already secured its first division crown in four years.
Kershaw (14-9, 1.94 ERA) has already been declared the starter for Game 1 of the NL division series, but he could have as many as two starts before that.
That could be enough to solidify his candidacy for his second NL Cy Young award in three years.
The three-time All-Star leads the majors in ERA and the NL with 214 strikeouts. He's trying to become the first Dodger to finish a season with a sub-2.00 ERA since Sandy Koufax had 1.73 in 1966.
In an effort to preserve his arm for the playoffs, the Dodgers skipped Kershaw's latest scheduled start Wednesday.
"I don't know if protect is a good word," Kershaw told the team's official website. "They want me to be well-rested if I pitch deep (into October). I don't think I need it, but I'm not going to argue about it."
Kershaw, though, hasn't been very sharp this month, going 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA. He's also lost all three of his starts against the Padres this year, compiling a 4.67 ERA while serving up five homers in 17 1-3 innings.
That includes giving up four runs in six frames of a 5-2 defeat at Petco Park.
The left-hander may need to show improvement since the Dodgers managed six hits in Friday's 2-0 loss to San Diego to open this three-game series.
They had won five straight with a .284 average and eight homers over the division foe before resting a number of starters Friday.
"The biggest thing we wanted to do was to give guys that have been just grinding it out for months, and are pretty banged up, they just needed a day off," manager Don Mattingly said.
The Padres are putting together a strong finish to the season, winning 12 of 17 after Jedd Gyorko had a solo homer and drove in the other run Friday.
The second baseman is hitting .327 with four homers and 10 RBIs in 13 games, and his 20 home runs are four shy of Nate Colbert's rookie franchise record set in 1969.
"Jedd thinks he can hit anything," manager Bud Black said. "Twenty homers as a rookie? That's real and good stuff."
Black will turn to another rookie on the mound - Burch Smith (1-1, 6.57).
The right-hander is looking to build on a superb performance while getting his first career victory. He struck out a season-high 10 while yielding three hits in seven innings of a 4-0 win over NL East-leading Atlanta.
Smith is facing the Dodgers for the first time, but he's 0-1 while surrendering 11 runs with eight walks in 11 1-3 innings over three home starts.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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