LOS ANGELES -- A chance at a sixth consecutive National League West title is not quite hanging in the balance for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but eyebrows have been raised and the calendar is making its presence known.
When the Dodgers play host to the San Diego Padres for a three-game series at Dodger Stadium beginning Friday, they will head into the matchup having lost nine of their last 12 games and 10 of their last 14. They opened the current homestand by getting swept in a three-game series against the surging St. Louis Cardinals.
The three games this weekend are part of the seven games remaining for the Dodgers in August. Then come 27 games in September as the Dodgers try to rally from a 4 1/2-game deficit in the National League West and a 3 1/2-game deficit for the second NL wild-card spot.
"It sucks losing," Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen said after Wednesday's 3-1 loss to the Cardinals. "It sucks going 4 1/2 back. It sucks being in third place. But you've just got to be a man and deal with it, and step up Friday. We all need to step up."
Jansen took the loss in two of the three games against the Cardinals as he returned from the disabled list because of an irregular heartbeat only to give up three home runs total. St. Louis hit two home runs off Jansen on Monday and one Wednesday.
The Dodgers' bullpen woes started when Jansen went on the DL Aug. 10 as nobody could get a handle on the suddenly-vacant closer role, but now Jansen is scuffling upon his return.
The Padres felt a bit of that Thursday when the Colorado Rockies' Ian Desmond hit a game-ending, two-run homer off right-hander Kirby Yates, when a San Diego win was one out away. But overall in the second half, the Padres' bullpen had been solid.
The Padres entered play Thursday with a 2.89 ERA from its relievers in the second half, the best in the NL and second best in baseball to Oakland's 2.63.
"The names down there have changed a lot," manager Andy Green said, according to Padres blog Friar Wire. "There are only a few guys who have been there from the beginning of the year. All the guys who have come up have done a really nice job. One through eight, there are good options down there."
The Padres will limp into Dodger Stadium on Friday as Christian Villanueva went on the DL with a fractured finger, and Wil Myers was reduced to one at-bat in the past two games after he was hit in the face by a ground ball in batting practice Wednesday. And Hunter Renfroe has a sore right forearm after getting hit by a pitch Sunday.
After Thursday's 4-3 defeat, the Padres have lost eight of their past 10 games. They are 10-21 since the All-Star break. The Padres are just 4-9 against the Dodgers this season, having lost three of four in a series in L.A. in July.
Left-hander Clayton Richard (7-10, 5.11 ERA) will pitch for the Padres on Friday, having gone 7-8 lifetime against the Dodgers in 26 appearances (24 starts) with a 4.51 ERA. Left-hander Rich Hill (5-4, 3.73) will start for the Dodgers, having worked 4-4 in nine career starts against the Padres with a 3.44 ERA.