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07/25/10 1:21 PM ET

Division-leading Padres host Dodgers

After completing a three-game sweep -- their sixth of the season -- with a 6-3 victory over the Pirates on Sunday, the Padres, who own the National League's best record at 58-39, will welcome their NL West rivals the Dodgers on Tuesday (53-46), to kick off a critical three-game series at PETCO Park.

The two teams, which will face each other seven times over the next 10 days, are well aware of the implications that the series' outcome may have on their futures moving forward -- for the Padres, potential solidification atop the NL West, and for the Dodgers, an opportunity to prove they are legitimate playoff contenders.

While there is still roughly two months of baseball to be played, Dodgers skipper Joe Torre stressed the significance of the intra-state showdown.

"I don't know if you downplay it," Torre said. "If I have to tell these players, when most of them get on the bus for San Diego on Monday, where they're going, we're certainly not ready to play."

"I know we're capable of more," said Torre of his team's recent inconsistent play. "I don't think there's a bad time to play [the Padres]. I think it's a time where we have to find out if we can respond to the challenge, and that's the only way I look at it right now."

Through the five meetings between the two clubs this season, the Dodgers have had the edge, going 4-1, while handing the Padres their only sweep of the season (May 14-16).

If the Dodgers are to produce an equally successful sequel, they will surely need to increase their run production. Over their past 11 games, they have manufactured just 25 runs -- going 4-7 over that span -- a problem Torre was sure to address.

"We know they're going to pitch well," Torre said of the Padres, who boast Major League Baseball's lowest ERA (3.28). "It's all going to come down to how well we pitch and do other things. We haven't scored a lot of runs."

Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley, coming off a shutout against the Giants on Wednesday, will look to continue the Dodgers' string of solid pitching performances. Over their past five contests, the Dodgers have allowed just nine runs, including a scoreless eight-inning effort from left-hander Clayton Kershaw in Sunday's 1-0 victory over the Mets.

The Padres will counter with right-hander Jon Garland, who has hit a rough patch of late. The 30-year-old veteran has gone 3-4 with a 5.47 ERA over his past nine starts, after opening the year with a 6-2 record and 2.15 ERA.

Nevertheless, Garland has outstanding career numbers against the Dodgers, showcasing a 9-6 record with a 3.61 ERA -- he was also the recipient of the Padres' only win against their division foes this season, coming May 19th.

Despite all the hype surrounding the series, Padres manager Bud Black tries to maintain a day-by-day approach.

"We don't think too far ahead," Black said. "We like to keep in the present. We know that every series, no matter who we play is important. We think [that mentality] is good for this group of players.

"That's when we play our best -- when we think about today."

Padres: Streaking Denorfia
Outfielder Chris Denorfia extended his hitting streak to seven games by going 2-for-5 with 3 RBIs in Sunday's 6-3 victory over the Pirates. Over that stretch Denorfia is batting .300 with three home runs and eight RBIs.

Dodgers: Furcal takes a rest
Shortstop Rafael Furcal, leading the NL with a .327 batting average, was held out of Sunday's starting lineup against the Mets to garner some additional rest. With a tie ballgame and a runner on first in the eighth inning against the Mets, Torre used Furcal to pinch-hit -- he subsequently flied out in foul territory.

Worth noting
Torre was both the first and last man thrown out of a big league game by legendary umpire Doug Harvey, whose career spanned from 1962 to 1992. Harvey was inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday. ... The Padres signed infielder Nick Green to a Minor League deal on Saturday. Green signed a Minor League contract with the Dodgers in the offseason but refused an assignment to the Minors in June.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.