Kershaw returns for struggling Dodgers in San Diego

SAN DIEGO -- The Los Angeles Dodgers stagger into Petco Park for a Labor Day weekend, four-game series with the San Diego Padres.

The bad news for the Dodgers is that they are riding a season-high, five-game losing streak. The good news is that they will get three-time National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw back to start the series opener.

Rookie Dinelson Lamet will take the ball for the Padres, facing the Dodgers for the first time.

Kershaw (15-2, 2.04 ERA) is making his return from the disabled list after missing five weeks due to a balky back.

Still, Padres manager Andy Green is eager for his squad to face the left-hander -- never mind that Kershaw is 16-6 with a 2.00 ERA in 31 career starts against the Padres, including a 2-0 mark and a 1.26 ERA in two starts this season.

"It's an opportunity to test yourself, and that is how you have to look at everything," Green said after his squad took two of three from the visiting San Francisco Giants this week. "If you're going to beat the Dodgers and win a World Series someday, you are going to have to stare down the barrel of gun and look at a Clayton Kershaw, an Alex Wood, a Yu Darvish and go out and beat them. And don't forget Kenley Jansen at the back of the bullpen."

Front and center is a Dodgers team that proved to possess a human element of late. After a historic winning run through most of August, Los Angeles limps into Petco Park.

But Green eyes the Dodgers' personnel list and knows what his rebuilding team is up against.

"There's no apparent weakness the way their roster is constructed," Green said. "There's obscene depth. If one guy isn't making a start, the next guy is a really good established major league pitcher. They've been able to overpower the game, and a lot of markets, by putting themselves in a position of immense depth."

They got there, according to Green, by spending lavishly in every available avenue while holding on to their prized prospects who have developed into stars. One of them, shortstop Corey Seager, might not play on Friday because of a sore elbow.

Kershaw's moody back is the Dodgers' primary concern, though.

"Everything felt healthy and good to go," Kershaw said after his final rehab start on Sunday. "I'm looking forward to the next one."

The Padres look ahead hoping to someday be as good as the Dodgers. They are fortified by knowing Logan White, the personnel whiz responsible for acquiring many of the Dodgers players, is now part of the San Diego brain trust.

"From Clayton Kershaw to Corey Seager, those are the guys he drafted," Green said. "It was his eyes that brought them into the organization."

So the Padres, for now, hitch their britches and try to keep pace with their powerful NL West-leading neighbors to the north. On paper, it's a lopsided battle, but that doesn't disturb Green.

"You don't ever run from that," he said. "You never want to look at the schedule and say, 'Man, why did we get those guys?' This is how you find out what you are made of and how far away you are from doing something special. I think that's the attitude the clubhouse takes."

The Padres will need a good performance from Lamet (7-5, 4.60 ERA). The right-hander allowed just one run on four hits in six innings in his most recent start, a no-decision against the Seattle Marlins on Saturday.