The Los Angeles Dodgers have gone from being a major disappointment to NL West champions in less than three months.
After securing their first division title in four years, visiting Los Angeles sends former San Diego Padres pitcher Edinson Volquez to the mound Friday night.Los Angeles sat in last place and was 9 1/2 games behind Arizona with a 30-42 record after falling 5-2 to San Diego on June 21. It improved to 58-23 since with Thursday's 7-6 win over the Diamondbacks to wrap up its first West championship since 2009.Hanley Ramirez, hitting .447 over his last 10, went 4 for 5 with a three-run homer and solo shot for the Dodgers (88-65), who won for only the second time in seven games."I want to keep going," Ramirez said. "I think that we've got a couple of more steps to do. We've got to keep working and stay together all the way through to the end."They'll look to get on a roll behind Volquez (9-11, 5.94 ERA), whose most recent disappointing start in San Diego also marked his last in a Padres uniform.The right-hander went 20-21 with a 4.96 ERA in 59 starts with the Padres after being acquired from Cincinnati in the Mat Latos trade Dec. 17, 2011. His stint in San Diego ended unceremoniously Aug. 23, when he allowed six runs in two-thirds of an inning before the Padres rallied to beat the Chicago Cubs 8-6.Volquez was designated for assignment the next day and later released before signing with the Dodgers on Aug. 30. His first appearance with Los Angeles came in relief that same night, when he pitched one scoreless inning in the Dodgers' 9-2 home win over the Padres.He's gone 0-1 with a 5.74 ERA in three starts and is excited to be receiving a fourth. Volquez left his last outing with a thumb blister after giving up three runs and striking out seven in 5 2/3 innings of the Dodgers' 4-3 loss to San Francisco on Sunday."They're giving me four starts," Volquez told the team's official website. "Maybe they like what they see."Padres fans surely didn't like much of what they saw from Volquez the last time he pitched at Petco Park, and he's 4-7 with a 5.72 ERA in 14 starts there this season.San Diego (71-81) has been outscored 22-6 while dropping five straight to the Dodgers, including a three-game sweep Aug. 30-Sept. 1. It has won 11 of 16 since that series but had its four-game winning streak snapped with Thursday's 10-1 loss to Pittsburgh.Rookie first baseman Tommy Medica drove in Chris Denorfia with a single in the first inning to give him an RBI in three straight, and fellow rookie Robbie Erlin (2-3, 5.18) will look to continue his solid stretch Friday.Erlin is 1-1 with a 2.60 ERA in three starts since being recalled from the minors, though he's received just four runs of support during that stretch. He didn't get any support while allowing two runs in six innings of Saturday's 2-1 loss to Atlanta."Robbie's still developing," manager Bud Black said. "Every pitch he throws in the majors, it's a learning experience for him. Robbie pitched well enough to get a 'W.'"The left-hander, 1-0 with a 2.95 ERA in three home starts, has yet to face the Dodgers.