Padres host Dodgers for 4 game series

Superb pitching has the Los Angeles Dodgers pulling away in the NL West. Now, they'd like to start getting some quality efforts from Mat Latos.

Latos will try to pitch the Dodgers to their ninth win in 10 games Thursday night in the opener of this four-game series with the San Diego Padres.

Los Angeles (75-57) has one of the best staffs in baseball with a 3.37 ERA, but it's posted a 1.36 mark during an 8-1 stretch, more than offsetting the team's .229 batting average in those games.

The pitchers limited San Francisco to five total runs in a three-game sweep, extending the Dodgers' division lead to a season-high 6 1/2 games.

Clayton Kershaw tossed a six-hitter and matched a career high with 15 strikeouts Wednesday in a 2-1 win.

"We're a good team and we're starting to play like that day in and day out," Kershaw said. "We can't relax, we got to keep our foot on the gas pedal."

Kershaw and Zack Greinke are a combined 27-9 but all other Los Angeles starters have combined to go 23-25. Included in that is Latos' 0-2 mark and 6.06 ERA in four starts since joining the Dodgers.

Latos (4-9, 4.76 ERA) has failed to complete five innings in each of his last three outings, compiling an 8.10 ERA.

He came one out shy of going five Saturday, allowing two runs and four hits with five strikeouts and three walks in a 5-2 win over the Chicago Cubs.

The right-hander blamed the performance on a two-week layoff between starts.

"It was pretty tough not throwing for seven, eight days," he said, "especially against a team like that. I didn't really have my 'A' game."

Latos, a member of the Padres from 2009-11, is 0-2 with a 2.08 ERA in four career starts against his former team with all of them coming at Petco Park. He allowed three runs in six innings of a 3-2 loss July 26 in his final appearance for Miami.

This is a very favorable matchup for Justin Upton, who is 10 for 20 with two homers, two doubles and a triple against Latos. Matt Kemp, though, is 3 for 22 with six strikeouts.

Adrian Gonzalez, another former Padre, is hitting .391 with six homers and 14 RBIs in the season series, helping the Dodgers win eight of 12 meetings.

The Padres (64-69) have lost seven of their last 10 games after winning seven of eight. They fell 4-3 in 10 innings to Texas on Wednesday.

Colin Rea (2-2, 5.95) tries to rebound from consecutive losses as he makes his fifth major league start.

After allowing five runs over 10 2-3 innings in his first two starts, the right-hander has been roughed up for 10 runs - eight earned - in nine innings in his past two. He permitted four runs, six hits and two walks over five-plus innings in a 4-3 loss at Philadelphia on Saturday.

"Colin is continuing to progress," manager Pat Murphy said. "There are a lot of good things he learned (Saturday). I think you look for little things that he learned. Jams that he was able to get out of like that (second inning) where he gave up two runs, let two more guys reach and then battle to get out of it."