The Dodgers will look to hit the ground running in the second half of the season. Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are both expected to return to the lineup when the Dodgers resume play tonight against the San Diego Padres.

Their returns accompany that of Mark Ellis, who was activated early last week, completing a Dodgers lineup will look something pretty close to what it was in April when the Dodgers went a National League best 16-7. June was not so kind to the Dodgers as they went 11-17 and, for a moment, fell into 2nd place in the division behind the San Francisco Giants. July has seen mixed results for the Dodgers, who appeared to be gaining some momentum salvaging the final game of their series with the New York Mets, taking 2 out of 3 from the Cincinnati Reds.

But, that would be short-lived as they dropped 3 out of 4 to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field prior to the All-Star Break. The main problem for the Blue Crew during this stretch has been scoring runs. They averaged only 2.9 runs per game in the month of June, after scoring 3.9 runs per game in April, and 4.6 runs per game in May.

Clearly, the Dodgers are missing Kemp’s and Ethier’s presences in the lineup, as well as Ellis, who was among the league leaders in runs scored before going down. The Dodgers have won 7 of 9 games against the Padres so far this year, and are averaging a robust 5.6 runs per game against the Fathers’ generally reliable pitching staff. Kemp is also hitting .348 lifetime with two home runs against Friday’s starter Clayton Richard. The Dodgers will counter with their own Clayton, Kershaw that is, who sports a 7-3 lifetime record against San Diego and 2.40 ERA.

The Padres are riding a 3-game losing streak of their own having lost 3 of 4 to the aforementioned Reds. Kemp went 6-for-15 (.400) with 4 RBI in a four game stint at Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, Ethier started his rehab assignment yesterday.

Not only will the Dodgers get their two biggest bats back, but with Kemp’s return, the Dodgers get their swagger back. Kemp’s mere presence in the lineup inspires his teammates and strikes fear into opponents.

Tony Gwynn, Jr. did a nice job of replacing Kemp’s glove and speed in the lineup, but his bat and overall leadership can’t be matched. Ethier is the perfect foil to Kemp with his chip-on-the-shoulder attitude. And even more so than Kemp, history has shown, when Ethier is doing well, the Dodgers do well. The Dodgers’ dynamic duo will have to deliver all-star efforts in the second half in order for L.A. to make it back to the postseason.

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