LOS ANGELES -- It will be time for a heat check as two locked-in pitchers square off Saturday at Dodger Stadium.
The Los Angeles Dodgers' Hyun-Jin Ryu is hot and only getting better, having fired seven scoreless innings in back-to-back starts while going 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his last six outings going back to June 17. That six-start run came not long after pitching four strong innings out of the bullpen on May 25, the only relief outing of his Dodgers carer.
The San Diego Padres might be solidly below .500 this season, but don't look at Jhoulys Chacin as part of the problem. The right-hander has a 2.75 ERA in 11 starts since June 9.
And while the Dodgers' Rich Hill was the National League's pitcher of the month in July, Chacin made a run at the honor, going 4-0 in five starts with a 2.51 ERA in 28 2/3 innings.
The Dodgers might be running away with the National League West as the season closes in on seven weeks to go, but Ryu is in nowhere near the same comfort zone. They figure to only use four starters in the postseason. They appear to be: Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Alex Wood and Hill.
Making things even harder for Ryu (4-6, 3.53 ERA) is the heavy presence of Dodgers left-handed starters. It's not even like he has an advantage if the Dodgers match up against a left-handed heavy lineup since three other lefties remain ahead of him in the pecking order.
"Hyun-Jin, I think that you have to point back to certain markers for a season and I think that the point when he went to the pen and really kind of understood the mentality of going as hard as he can for as long as he can, he's been very good," Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said.
Being backed by an impressive Dodgers offense hasn't hurt. In five of Ryu's last seven starts, the Dodgers have scored at least six runs. The two starts when they didn't, Ryu didn't blink. He was 1-1 and gave up a combined two runs in those outings.
Chacin (11-8, 4.15) gets a turn at that Los Angeles offense next, and it already has gone poorly once this season. He gave up nine runs, eight hits and two walks in 3 1/3 innings on Opening Day. But he rebounded July 2 to pitch five scoreless innings against the Dodgers in a Padres victory.
"Obviously, he had a rough time on Opening Day, but he has been markedly better as the season's progressed," Padres manager Andy Green said. "He's been our most consistent starter the entire season. It's location and command for him. You don't get the luxury of making mistakes, whether it be the fastball, slider or changeup in the middle of the plate against these guys."
Just what is Chacin up against? The Dodgers had won 26 of their last 29 home games before Friday and entered the current homestand on an eight-game Dodger Stadium win streak.
Nobody is even close to the Dodgers' 47-14 home record this season. That is a .770 home winning percentage bettering all but the Cincinnati Reds' .790 winning percentage (64-17) from the 1975 season as best in NL history (going back to 1913).
"You have to execute and execute consistently," Green said about facing the red-hot Dodgers. "That's what the task will be for (Chacin on Saturday)."