Zack Greinke may have had the Padres partially to blame for his missing a month of action earlier this season, but he also has them to thank for later being part of his impressive turnaround.
Greinke on Sunday will face the Padres for a third time this season as the first-place Dodgers look to complete a three-game sweep at Dodger Stadium of the last-place Padres. Los Angeles enters the series finale with a 10 1/2-game lead in the National League West, but trails the Braves by three games for the NL's best record overall.
For Greinke, each of his first two outings against the Padres provided a key moment in his 2013 campaign. It all began in just his second start of the year, when he broke his left collarbone in a brawl that started when Padres slugger Carlos Quentin charged the mound after being hit by a Greinke pitch.
After missing just more than a month due to the injury, Greinke returned on May 15, only to struggle with consistency until a rematch with the Padres on June 22 seemingly righted the ship. In that meeting, the Dodgers righty limited San Diego to one run over eight innings en route to a victory that kicked off his current run of winning 10 of his last 11 decisions.
Greinke entered that June 22 outing with a 3-2 record and 4.22 ERA, a far cry from his current 13-3 mark and 2.86 ERA. Though the turnaround began with that start, his dominance reached another level in August, as he won all five of his starts while posting a 1.23 ERA and notched 30 strikeouts compared to eight walks.
"If you're able to do that," Greinke said of his improved ability to locate pitches as the season has progressed, "you feel more comfortable out there to where if you get to three balls, you feel you can make some pitches and if you get behind in the count, you have some things you can go to that aren't going to get crushed. You're just more confident when you're able to locate stuff."
Padres: Ross trying to get back on track
Starting opposite Greinke, Padres righty Tyson Ross will look to rediscover the success he had upon rejoining the Padres starting rotation in late July.
After making three starts at the beginning of the season, Ross made his next 21 appearances out of the bullpen before rejoining the rotation on July 23. In his first five starts upon his return, Ross went 3-1 with a 1.32 ERA. In two outings since, however, he has posted a 5.84 ERA in collecting a pair of losses.
"I was definitely struggling with my command early," Ross said after allowing six runs (four earned) over six innings in his latest setback Monday against the D-backs. "I wasn't as sharp with the fastball. That is something I need to work on."
In his 10 overall starts this season, Ross is 3-4 with a 2.83 ERA.
Dodgers: Young acquisition adds veteran presence
While the Dodgers were busy rallying for a 2-1 victory on the field Saturday night, the club's front office was busy off of the diamond, acquiring veteran corner infielder Michael Young from the Phillies. Los Angeles received Young and cash considerations from Philadelphia in exchange for Minor League left-hander Rob Rasmussen.
Young, 36, hit .276 with eight home runs and 42 RBIs in 126 games with the Phillies this season. Though he was used primarily as a third baseman, Young made 26 appearances (19 starts) at first base, as well.
A seven-time All-Star, Young is a .300 lifetime hitter over 14 big league seasons. Since the transaction occurred prior to Saturday's 8:59 p.m. PT deadline, Young will be eligible for the Dodgers' postseason roster.
• Originally hoping to return on Sunday, slugger Matt Kemp will instead continue his rehab. Sidelined since spraining his left ankle on July 21, Kemp has struggled to feel comfortable at the plate in three rehab games with Class A Rancho Cucamonga.
Kemp played seven innings in center field on Friday without suffering any physical problems with his ankle. He then served as the designated hitter on Saturday and is expected to again DH on Sunday. Rancho Cucamonga's regular season ends on Monday, but the Quakes could qualify for the postseason or Kemp could also get additional at-bats in the Arizona Instructional League, if needed.
• Padres outfielder Will Venable went hitless on Saturday, snapping his nine-game hitting streak. Despite the 0-for-4 performance on Saturday, he is still hitting .386 (17-for-44) over the last 10 games, though he is just 1-for-9 with six strikeouts lifetime against Greinke.
• Greinke retired Quentin all three times they faced each other in the June 22 rematch, but there will be no additional meetings this time around. Quentin is currently on the disabled list and scheduled to undergo season-ending knee surgery on Tuesday.