(SportsNetwork.com) - Expectations are high this season for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, as they kick off the 2015 campaign Monday in the opener of a three-game series at Chavez Ravine.
The Dodgers lost in the NLCS in 2013, then won their second straight NL West title last season and made it to the NLDS, losing in four games to St. Louis. Ace Clayton Kershaw came up empty in the postseason after a marvelous regular season in which he took home his second straight and third overall NL Cy Young Award. Kershaw, who was also named NL MVP, won the Cy Young in 2011 and 2013, but finished second in the voting to R.A. Dickey in 2012.
Kershaw went 21-3 with a 1.77 earned run average and a 0.86 WHIP in only 27 starts this past season after missing April with a back problem. He set new career bests in strikeout rate (10.8 K/9), walk rate (1.4 BB/9) and ground ball rate (51.8 percent). Kershaw and Zack Greinke will be the cornerstones to the Dodgers' rotation once again.
New general manager Andrew Friedman was pried away from the Tampa Bay Rays in hopes of getting the Dodgers over the playoff hump. The Dodgers have reached the postseason six times since 2004 with zero World Series appearances to show for it. That's why Friedman was brought in and former GM Ned Colletti will remain with the organization as a senior advisor.
Friedman was busy right away in shipping fan favorite and slugging outfielder Matt Kemp to the Padres. Kemp was productive in 2014, but injury concerns and a huge contract were too much to invest in, especially with Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig manning the outfield. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez also departed Hollywood for Boston.
Friedman made some moves to bolster the lineup, acquiring infielders Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins, catcher Yasmani Grandal and starting pitcher Brett Anderson.
Kershaw gets the nod Monday and is 12-6 with a 2.25 earned run average in 24 career starts against the Padres. He won all three meetings with San Diego last season and went 10-2 with a 1.70 ERA in 14 starts at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers will visit Arizona for three games this weekend.
Meanwhile, the Padres haven't been to the postseason since 2006 and have finished no better than third place in the NL West in each of the past four years.
Kemp jumped ship from the rival Dodgers and his health is a huge concern. Kemp did play in 150 games in 2014 and batted .287 with 26 homers and 89 RBI, his most runs batted in since 126 back in 2011. Kemp has a gigantic salary and his addition is not only a risk, but it should bolster San Diego's offense.
Wil Myers is expected to start in center field and came over from the Rays as part of an 11-player trade that also involved the Washington Nationals. The 2013 American League Rookie of the Year joins Kemp and Justin Upton in an improved outfield. Upton was another acquisition this offseason.
So was starting pitcher James Shields. He makes the Padres' rotation better and he had a 14-8 record with a 3.21 ERA in 34 starts for the American League champion Kansas City Royals last season. He struggled in the playoffs, however, losing both of his starts against the San Francisco Giants in the World Series.
Shields gets the call Monday and will make his second career start against the Dodgers. The right-hander did not record a decision against Los Angeles last June 25 in a 5-4 loss, allowing four runs and seven hits in seven innings.
San Diego wasn't done dealing and made headlines Easter Sunday by acquiring Braves All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel and outfielder Melvin Upton Jr., who will be reunited with his younger brother Justin. The duo spent the past two seasons together in Atlanta, but Justin was sent to the Padres this winter.
The Padres gave up outfielders Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin as well as prospects Matt Wisler and Jordan Paroubeck. Atlanta will also receive the 41st pick in the 2015 draft.
The Padres will start a seven-game homestand later this week versus defending World Series champion San Francisco and Arizona.
San Diego has lost 10 of the last 15 meetings with Los Angeles.