Even though they lost the past two games at Coors Field in Colorado, the San Diego Padres are above .500 after 10 games for only the third time in 11 seasons.
They view themselves as playoff contenders in 2020.
But only now do they face the ultimate test.
The Los Angeles Dodgers -- the Gold Standard of the National League West for the past six seasons -- visit San Diego and the Padres for three straight games starting Monday.
The Dodgers have not been kind to the Padres, even at Petco Park in San Diego. The Dodgers were 13-6 against the Padres in 2019 and had a 7-2 record at Petco Park. The Dodgers open their first 2020 series against the Padres riding a five-game winning streak against their Southern California National League neighbors.
But the Padres are confident times could be changing. And who better to express that sentiment than Monday night's starter -- right-hander Chris Paddack, who is 1-0 with a 1.64 ERA after his first two starts in 2020.
At the age of 24 1/2, Paddack was the fourth-youngest Opening Day starter in Padres history. Now he's the first Padres pitcher to face the Dodgers in 2020 -- drawing another young ace as his opponent in right-hander Walker Buehler (0-0, 4.91 ERA).
Paddack doesn't lack for confidence. He's known as "The Sheriff" around Petco Park. "I know I can pitch. I expect to pitch well every time I go out there," Paddack said after the season-opening assignment.
"All we're looking for is Paddack to be himself," says rookie Padres manager Jayce Tingler. "Paddack helps set the tone."
Thus far, that tone has been positive for the Padres, who are 2-0 when Paddack pitches. In his first 11 innings, Paddack has given up two runs on 10 hits and a walk with 10 strikeouts.
Paddack was 9-7 with a 3.33 ERA in 26 starts as a rookie in 2019. Just three years removed from Tommy John surgery, Paddack was restricted to 140 2/3 innings last year when he had 153 strikeouts against 31 walks for a 0.981 WHIP.
However, he did struggle against the Dodgers, going 0-1 with a 5.65 ERA in three starts. The Dodgers hit .246 against Paddack.
This will be Paddack's 13th start at Petco Park. He is 7-3 at home with 72 strikeouts against 11 walks in 67 2/3 innings. Opposing hitters are batting .189 against Paddack at Petco Park with a .228 on-base percentage.
Buehler's only start of the season came on July 28, his 26th birthday. Buehler, who had Tommy John surgery in 2015, got off to a slow start in 2019 and didn't face opposing hitters during the Dodgers' "Summer Camp" last month.
"I don't like pitching to my teammates," Buehler said of his preseason restrictions. "I am healthy and ready to go."
Buehler finished ninth in the 2019 voting for the National League Cy Young Award. He was 14-4 last season with a 3.26 ERA and a 1.042 WHIP in 30 starts. His .778 winning percentage led the National League.
Buehler is 4-0 lifetime against the Padres with a 0.64 ERA and WHIP over 28 innings in four starts, although only one of the outings was at Petco Park. He has given up 13 hits and five walks with 42 strikeouts and the Padres are hitting .141 with a .192 on-base percentage against Buehler.
--Field Level Media