MLB LOOK AHEAD

Dodgers greet Phillies in battle of frontrunners

Field Level Media

May 31, 2019 at 6:53 am.

The regular season is barely one-third complete, but it’s not too early to wonder if this weekend’s series between the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers is a potential playoff preview.

The top two teams in the National League will face off Friday in the opener of a three-game series when the Dodgers host the Phillies. Right-hander Kenta Maeda (6-2, 3.67 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound for Los Angeles against Philadelphia right-hander Jake Arrieta (5-4, 3.60).

Both teams are coming off series wins, though the Phillies missed a chance at completing a three-game sweep of the visiting St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday afternoon, when the Cardinals earned a 5-3 win. The host Dodgers edged the New York Mets, 2-0, later Thursday night to win for the third time in the four-game set.

The two-time defending NL champion Dodgers, who have the best record in the game at 38-19, displayed their dangerous, well-rounded nature in beating the Mets.

After outscoring New York 21-20 in the first three games of the series and mounting middle- and late-inning comebacks Monday and Wednesday — the Dodgers scored four runs in the ninth to win the latter game, 9-8 — Los Angeles relied on ace Hyun-Jin Ryu and closer Kenley Jansen on Thursday. Ryu tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings to lower his baseball-best ERA to 1.48 before Jansen earned his second multi-inning save of the week. Jansen got the final five outs in Monday’s 9-5 victory.

“I think that each night, it’s the focus to win a baseball game, and you look at how the offense has played and picked up the pitchers at times and other times the pitchers pick up our offense,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said afterward. “To win three of four against a team I think is starting to be on the come — those guys have good pitching and they’re starting to play better baseball — for us to win a series like that, three out of four, we’ve got another good club coming in now.”

The series against the Dodgers comes near the end of a pivotal stretch against early-season contenders for the Phillies, who lead the NL East by three games over the Atlanta Braves but haven’t reached the playoffs or had a winning season since 2011.

The Phillies are in the midst of a 23-game stretch against the Dodgers, the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs, the wild card-leading Milwaukee Brewers as well as three teams who will all enter Friday within a game of .500, the Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres. Philadelphia is 10-7 thus far and will complete the stretch by visiting the Padres next Monday through Wednesday.

“It’s definitely a test for us, but I don’t think we have to play with any pressure,” Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez told reporters through an interpreter following Thursday’s loss. “You go there and you see that they’re in first place, like us. Down the road, if we stay in first place and they stay in first place, you know that eventually we’re going to play each other in a bigger scenario.”

Maeda won his third straight start on Sunday, when he came off the injured list and allowed three runs over five innings as the Dodgers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 11-7. The 31-year-old was sidelined for 10 days with a left thigh injury.

Arrieta earned the win in his most recent start last Saturday when he gave up two runs over eight innings as the Phillies beat the Brewers, 7-2. It was the second time this season Arrieta has tossed eight innings.

Maeda is 3-1 with a 4.55 ERA in six career starts against the Phillies. Arrieta is 3-3 with a 3.07 ERA in seven regular season starts against the Dodgers, whom he victimized for his first career no-hitter in a 2-0 win for the Cubs on Aug. 30, 2015.