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A key for Dodgers versus Padres? Tame the terrific Tatis

The San Diego Padres will look to make more noise in the National League West when they arrive in Los Angeles on Monday night for the opener of a four-game series.

FILE PHOTO: Aug 9, 2020; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. (23) gestures after hitting a two-run home run during the second inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The young Padres are on the rise with a 9-7 record to start the season, while Fernando Tatis Jr. continues to grow into his role as a star of the (near) future.

The 21-year-old Tatis hit another home run Sunday against the Arizona Diamondbacks to give him eight, tying him for the major league lead. He smacked four homers in the weekend series and led off two games against Arizona by going deep. He has six home runs in eight August games, with two of those coming against the Dodgers.

“I’m just ready for my fastball, every time,” Tatis told reporters about his early game home-run tendencies. “They hang it, I’ve just got to put a good swing on it.”

The Padres dropped two of three home games to the Dodgers last week, but they now have Los Angeles’ attention.

Tatis hit one home run against Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler in a 5-4 victory on Aug. 3 and added another in Wednesday’s 7-6 defeat as San Diego nearly rallied from a 7-2 deficit. The Dodgers’ one-run victory was only complete when Chris Taylor threw out Trent Grisham at the plate for the final out.

From there, the Padres went on to take two of three from the Diamondbacks over the weekend as Tatis erupted offensively. He went 6 for 12 in the three games and is batting .355 in August (11 for 31) with nine RBIs. The Padres hit six home runs Sunday.

“(Tatis’) swing, his decision-making, all those things -- right now, he’s dialed in,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said.

The first Dodgers pitcher to take on Tatis and his teammates this week is right-hander Dustin May (1-0, 2.63 ERA), another youngster making a name for himself. On the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster only because Clayton Kershaw was injured, May has made a case to stay for good.

The best of May’s three starts this season came in the Dodgers’ victory at San Diego on Tuesday. He went a career-best six innings, giving up two runs on three hits with eight strikeouts. He also took the internet by storm, thanks to a 99-mph running fastball that struck out Manny Machado, making the All-Star spin and wince while swinging in vain.

“Honestly, I just throw it and that’s how it comes out of my hand,” May, 22, told reporters after the outing. “I grip it and rip it, that’s my thought process.”

In just a few weeks, May has gone from last-minute Opening Day replacement to somebody who looks like a rotation mainstay.

“We always talk about the depth of the starting staff,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Dustin is making his claim, and that’s a good thing. He’s stepping up when given the opportunity. ... We have a long way to go to see what happens.”

May’s five appearances and three starts against San Diego over the past two seasons are his most against any team. He is 1-2 lifetime against the Padres with a 3.32 ERA over 19 innings.

The Padres will counter Monday with veteran right-hander Garrett Richards (0-1, 4.60). Richards is 1-1 in seven career outings (five starts) against the Dodgers, with a 2.55 ERA.

The Dodgers are awaiting the return of shortstop Corey Seager, who left Friday’s game with lower back discomfort. As of Sunday afternoon, a trip to the injured list was not being considered.

--Field Level Media

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