Austin Nola brings the Padres closer in the 9th, but it wasn’t enough. Photo credit: Screen shot, @BallySportsSD, via Twitter

The Padres face a crucial series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Tuesday, but not for the reason many expected as the season began.

At that time, experts projected a dogfight between the upstart Padres and champion Dodgers in the National League West. The division-leading San Francisco Giants, though, have thrown a monkey wrench into that scenario.

Now the Padres are fighting to regain their early season form, after falling 7-4 to the Philadelphia Phillies Sunday – and dropping two games in the three-game set.

Ryan Weathers had another subpar outing, this time in a bullpen game, giving up three runs on five hits over two innings.

By the 9th inning, the Padres had a six-run hole to dig themselves out of, and gave it a shot, clearing the bases on an Austin Nola double. The next batter, Trent Grisham, though, struck out to end the game.

The Padres have gone 8-11 in August, but eight of those losses have come against also-ran teams, including a sweep at the hands of the Colorado Rockies earlier this week.

The slide also has dropped them one game behind Cincinnati in the race for the second wild-card spot, as the Reds defeated the Miami Marlins 3-1 Sunday.

The Dodgers, though, could be the cure for what ails the Padres, as they’ve played their hated rival tough in 2021. They swept the Dodgers two months ago, and over a seven-game stretch in April they took four of the contests – which more than lived up to the pre-season hype.

Craig Stammen, who opened Sunday’s game, acknowledged his team’s slump “at what seems like the worst time imaginable.” But he added, “this could turn into one of the greatest comebacks in San Diego history.”

“(We) just gotta keep grinding … take on the Dodgers and play them a tough as we can,” he said.

The series with the Dodgers begins Tuesday at Petco Park after an off day. The pitching match-ups remain mostly up in the air, but Blake Snell will take the mound Wednesday against Walker Buehler, while the Padres must face Max Scherzer Thursday.

Yu Darvish is a distinct possibility, as manager Jayce Tingler said the team is “pretty hopeful” he’ll be activated from the injured list for the series.

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