With all due respect to Red Sox-Yankees or Cardinals-Cubs, etc., no question that the most heated rivalry right now in Major League Baseball is Dodgers-Padres, and they meet for the first time this season Friday in San Diego. The Friars are expected to activate superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. from the injured list, but the Dodgers will remain without former NL MVP Cody Bellinger. L.A. is a -145 favorite on the William Hill Sportsbook MLB odds.
Tatis Jr., who opened the season as the betting favorite to win NL MVP after getting a $340 million extension this offseason, has been out since suffering a left shoulder subluxation on a hard swing-and-miss April 5 vs. the Giants -- his third reported issue with that shoulder in a span of 23 days.
Originally, there was concern it was a serious dislocation that might require season-ending surgery, but clearly not yet – although something to monitor if it keeps bothering Tatis. The 22-year-old was off to a slow start, hitting .167 with a homer in five games. He hit .205 with two homers and four RBIs last regular season vs. the Dodgers.
Bellinger was placed on the 10-day injured list about a week ago retroactive to April 6 with a left calf contusion but isn't ready to be activated yet even though he's eligible. The 2019 NL MVP was hitting .211 in four games this season and batted .179 vs. the Padres in 2020 with a homer.
The Dodgers and Padres played a highly entertaining NLDS last October – entertaining even though Los Angeles swept on the way to the World Series title. That series might have been a lot different had Bellinger not robbed Tatis of a go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of Game 2. Bellinger reached over the 8-foot wall in Arlington, Texas (playoffs were at a neutral site) to take it away. L.A. would win 6-5.
There were numerous instances of guys barking at each other or pimping after home runs in this series (regular season and playoffs) a year ago, and the fact there will be fans in the stands at Petco Park this time should only add to the drama.
Los Angeles enters on a six-game winning streak, with the best record in baseball at 11-2 and as the +350 favorite at William Hill to repeat as World Series winner. San Diego is 9-5 and a +900 third favorite to win its first World Series.
The pitching matchup Friday certainly seems to favor L.A. as it's Cy Young candidate Walker Buehler (1-0, 1.50) for the Dodgers. He has gone exactly six innings in each of his first two this season with eight strikeouts and no walks. Buehler allowed three runs on five hits over five innings in his lone regular-season start against the Padres last season and allowed one run over four innings in his NLDS start against them.
The Padres go with rookie lefty Ryan Weathers (1-0, 1.50) in his first big-league start. He has pitched three times this season in relief, allowing one runs over six innings. It's not likely that Weathers will be out there very long as he's not stretched out.
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