The San Diego Padres will open their National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers tonight in Los Angeles, undaunted by the Dodgers' success, both in general and specifically against the Padres.
"They handed it to us pretty good this year, so we realize what we're up against,'' Padres manager Bob Melvin said at a news conference Monday. "I think it feels a little bit better now that we're not looking at the standings and 18 games behind or 20 games behind, whatever it was.''
The Dodgers won 14 of 19 regular-season games against the Padres, including eight of 10 at Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles won a franchise-record 111 games. Its 111-51 record was the best in Major League Baseball, gave it a first- round bye and assured it of home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
The Dodgers scored an MLB-leading 847 runs and allowed 513, the fewest in MLB. The Padres scored 705 runs, 13th in MLB, and allowed 660, the 10th fewest.
"They're just a good team all around,'' Padres outfielder Trent Grisham said. “I think we're clicking on all levels right now, and we have a lot of belief in our clubhouse about what we can do.''
The Padres were 89-73, finishing second in the National League West, 22 games behind Los Angeles. The Padres got the second of the National League's three wild-card playoff berths, then upset the New York Mets, who had 101 regular-season victories, in a best-of-three wild-card series, two games to one.
Mike Clevinger will start for the Padres. The right-hander was 7-7 with a 4.33 ERA in the regular season, including an 0-2 record and 9.69 ERA in three starts against the Dodgers. He had not pitched against Los Angeles in the regular season before 2022.
"Based on a little bit more rest every time, he has been better,'' Melvin said. "He has pitched some really good games for us. He has done it recently as well, and we always have confidence when he pitches.''
Clevinger will be pitching for the first time since Oct. 1, when he allowed one run and three hits in six innings and was credited with the victory in a 5-2 win over the Chicago White Sox.
He was scratched from his planned start Wednesday due to an unspecified illness and was placed on the injured list for the third time in the season. He was also on the injured list April 4-May 3 due to a right knee sprain and May 22-June 17 because of a right triceps strain.
Clevinger described his season as "a roller coaster.''
"Ups and downs, there's some mild injuries, there was illnesses. It's just good to finally be here and be in this environment right now."
Left-hander Julio Urías will pitch for Los Angeles. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he selected Urías as the Game 1 starter over Clayton Kershaw because "we felt that having Julio for Game 1 and potentially for Game 5 on regular (rest) just made the most sense.''
"Hopefully we can get through the series,'' Roberts said. "Then Clayton will be even more prominent in the next series. That's kind of how it works.''
Urías was 17-7 in the regular season with a National League-best 2.16 ERA. His 17 victories were second in the league behind Atlanta right-hander Kyle Wright's 21. Opponents batted .199 against Urías, the third lowest-figure in the league behind Arizona's Zac Gallen (.186) and Milwaukee's Corbin Burnes (.197).
He was 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in four starts against the Padres, including pitching six shutout innings in his final start against the Padres on Sept. 28, a 1-0, 10-inning Dodgers victory in which he did not figure in the decision.
Urías is 6-1 with a 2.19 ERA in 15 appearances against the Padres lifetime, including 10 starts.
The Padres were 15-7 in Clevinger's 22 starts. Los Angeles was 21-10 in Urías' 31 starts.
The game is set to begin at 6:37 p.m. and will be televised by FS1. Game 2 of the best-of-five series will be played Wednesday, also at Dodger Stadium.
Games 3 and 4 will be played Friday and Saturday at San Diego's Petco Park. Game 5, if necessary, would be played Sunday at Dodger Stadium.