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The next three days won’t exactly be what the prognosticators predicted for Petco Park in San Diego.

Entering the season, the Padres were projected to be the main threat to the Dodgers’ eight-season reign in the National League West.

Well, the San Francisco Giants have changed all that.

So the Padres and Dodgers won’t be playing for the division lead when they meet for their third series this season in a three-game set starting Monday night.

But they will be playing each other, which is more than enough for Padres fans who have long viewed the Dodgers as their “rivals.” However, the Dodgers are more locked into the Giants as their “rival.”

No matter. The first seven games of the 2021 Padres-Dodgers competition have produced some classic battles that left both teams emotionally drained. The Padres hold a 4-3 edge with 12 head-to-head games remaining. The most recent meeting, on April 25, saw the Padres rally from a 7-1 deficit to win 8-7 in 11 innings in a game that took nearly five hours.

“Great game,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Neither team left anything out there.”

Now the Dodgers return to San Diego for round three. And there is a twist. California’s strict COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted. Baseball stadiums can be filled to capacity. The Padres just drew 151,000 fans to see a four-game sweep of the Reds.

Packed houses are expected for the Dodgers, including a number of fans who regularly trek south to see their team play in San Diego.

Padres manager Jayce Tingler said his players are excited about playing the Dodgers before big crowds on San Diego’s home turf.

“Every time we’ve played the Dodgers, it’s been a great ballgame,” Tingler said Sunday afternoon. “Both teams are going to lay it all out. The most important thing, we’re playing better all-around baseball now. And the energy in the stands this weekend was felt.

“We felt the support this weekend. The players talked about it. With that support, it’s important that we play well at home.”

The Padres also expect to have shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. back in the lineup. Tatis exited Saturday’s game after landing hard on the shoulder he partially dislocated on April 5. He sat out Sunday, although he was available if needed.

Both teams have contoured their rotation with the next three days in mind.

The Padres moved back right-hander Yu Darvish (6-2, 2.57 ERA) so that he could face Dodgers left-hander Julio Urias (9-2, 3.54) in Monday’s series opener.

Left-hander Blake Snell (2-3, 5.72) will start for the Padres Tuesday against Dodgers’ left-hander Clayton Kershaw (8-6, 3.36).

And the Padres will go with right-hander Joe Musgrove (4-6, 2.28) against Dodgers right-hander Trevor Bauer (7-5, 2.45) on Wednesday.

Darvish has faced the Dodgers twice this season and is 1-1. He has allowed two runs on five hits and five walks with 18 strikeouts in 14 innings in back-to-back, seven-inning starts on April 17 and 23. Urias has not faced the Padres this season.

Both Darvish and Urias have worked 84 innings in 14 starts. Darvish has a 0.952 WHIP and a .196 opponents’ batting average while averaging 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings with a 4.6-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Urias has a 1.000 WHIP, a .228 OBA, a 9.6 nine-inning strikeout average and a 6.9-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio.

–Field Level Media