Crucial. Pivotal. Momentous.
Call it what you will, but this Dodgers vs. Padres series holds as much importance as any other this season for the Los Angeles Dodgers who are looking to oust the Padres from solidifying the top spot in the NL West while proving that they are genuine playoff contenders.
Who legitimately has the momentum heading into this series?
When the Dodgers step onto the field at PETCO Park tomorrow night, they may feel as though the momentum is on their side, considering they have gone 4-1 against the Padres and handed them their only sweep of the season.
Then again, the Padres are currently leading the National League West, while the Dodgers lurk six games away in the smoggy distance.
The most substantial, dangerous weapon in the Padres' arsenal continues to be their explosive, lights out pitching. Behind stellar pitchers like Jon Garland, Mat Latos, Wade LeBlanc and Clayton Richard the Padres dominate the MLB with the lowest ERA (3.28).
That stat does not bode well for the inconsistent run production of the Dodgers, who have generated just 25 runs in their last 11 games. Aside from shortstop Rafael Furcal, who has provided a consistently powerful bat, the Dodgers have struggled to produce offensively.
Between Manny Ramirez on the DL, Andre Ethier under-performing since the All-Star break, and the overall ebb and flow of players like James Loney and Matt Kemp, there's been a tangible lack of reliability of the Dodgers' bats.
"We know they pitch well," said Dodger Manager Joe Torre. "It's all going to come down to how well we pitch and do other things. We haven't scored a lot of runs."
When Chad Billingsley (8-5, 4.22 ERA) takes the mound tomorrow night, he will need to have a specifically crafted gameplan with catcher Russell Martin and Joe Torre.
They need to keep the ball out of first-basemen Adrian Gonzalez's wheel-house, whose already belted 21 homers this season, and keep the ball low on outfielder Chris Denorfia so he hits ground balls, effectively ending his seven-game hit streak.
Coming off a shutout against the Giants last Wednesday, hopefully Billingsley can follow in line with the suddenly strong Dodgers pitching. If the Dodgers can maintain their on guard, alert defense, and work together to produce on offense when the Padres are most vulnerable, they will be able take this series and rise in their division.