SAN DIEGO -- A keen matchup between southpaws highlights the opener of a three-game series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres on Friday.
Los Angeles' Alex Wood (8-0, 1.86 ERA) and San Diego's Clayton Richard (5-7, 4.42) are the featured performers.
The National League West-leading Dodgers are wrapping up a five-game road trip in which they won't leave Southern California. Before arriving in San Diego, the Dodgers split a pair of games in Anaheim against the Los Angeles Angels.
Wood has been a godsend. Not since Fernando Valenzuela won eight straight to begin the 1981 season has a Dodgers hurler accomplished what Wood has done. He's also the first Dodger since Orel Hershiser in 1985 to remain unbeaten 11 starts into a season.
Wood, a one-time reliever, has been attacking hitters with gusto.
"He's just been really aggressive," Dave Roberts told reporters after Wood's latest start. "He just fills up the strike zone, three-pitch mix, and these guys weren't getting really good swings."
"These guys" were the powerful Colorado Rockies, but Wood navigated through their potent lineup last week with ease. He allowed one run and three hits over six innings, walked two and struck out seven. Of his 98 pitches, 22 were swinging strikes.
"We just kind of had a game plan to attack them, and we were trying to get some early contact," Wood said afterward. "My changeup was good, so I was able to get some early contact."
Wood has won two of his three lifetime decisions over the Padres, pitching to a 2.19 ERA.
The Dodgers have an ace, of course, in Clayton Kershaw. But Kershaw is being pushed by Wood and that's a good problem for the Dodgers to have.
Roberts is impressed by not only what Wood delivers, but how he keeps his wits about him.
"He just does a good job of keeping it in his head and keeping his composure," Roberts said. "I think that every pitcher, when they're throwing 100-plus pitches a night, there's things that don't go your way or hits that shouldn't be hits or calls or check-swings. Alex does a very good job of staying within himself."
Richard would just as soon stay away from a repeat performance. He had a shaky game last time out when the Tigers pummeled him for five runs and nine hits over 5 1/3 innings.
He has done better against the Dodgers over the years, notching a 7-5 record with a 3.69 ERA. In two starts vs. Los Angeles this year, Richard has split two decisions.
He's eager to rinse off his game against the Tigers, the only one they won during their three-game stay in San Diego.
"This game's difficult, and you get tried at times," Richard said. "And it's about how quickly you can compose yourself after those trying times."
He'll have to tiptoe through a Dodgers order that has seen the return of Corey Seager. The 2016 NL Rookie of the Year was hitless in four at-bats Thursday night after being sidelined briefly with a hamstring injury.