Eric Stults vs. Chad Billingsley presents an intriguing Padres-Dodgers pitching matchup.

Chad Billingsley

It wasn’t that long ago that San Diego Padres left-hander Eric Stults started against his former team. On Sept. 4 of last year, Stults limited the Dodgers to seven hits and one run in six innings at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers wound up losing that game 6-3 in 11 innings when John Ely imploded (the first time) in his first major-league game of the season.

Afterward Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he’d seen enough soft-tossing left-handers for a season. “We’re kind of seeing the same guy and not making enough adjustments,” he said. Turns out that the Dodgers weren’t alone in their misery facing Stults, who went 3-1 over his final four starts of last year, including two wins over the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants. Stults shut out the Mets for five innings to win his only start of 2013. For a guy who was relegated to Japan after being cut by the Dodgers in 2009, it’s a nice little comeback.

Stults will be opposed by Chad Billingsley, who was officially activated from the 15-day disabled list prior to the game. Interesting to note that both pitchers broke into the majors with the Dodgers in the same year (2006). Billingsley would start 100 games over the next four seasons for the Dodgers. Stults started 24 during that same span before the teams parted ways.

Don’t forget, the game will not be on Prime Ticket tonight but you can still watch it on local cable.

Here are tonight’s full lineups:

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The Dodgers’ lineup is sputtering. Just how injured is Matt Kemp?

Yesterday, I compared the Dodgers’ offense to a sputtering Corvette idling in the driveway (Usually not my driveway, usually my neighbor’s driveway at 2 in the morning).

Don Mattingly tacitly agreed with the comparison in his postgame press conference, saying: “we’re having our troubles putting up runs. (Eric) Stults, he can pitch, he can change speeds and keep the ball down, but I think we’ve got to do a little better job.”

ESPN, which televised last night’s game, put together this nifty head-to-head comparison of Stults and Clayton Kershaw, yesterday’s starters. Stults’ numbers aren’t bad this season. Neither are Kershaw’s.

Kershaw said he got to know “Stultsie” well during their two years together in L.A.

“It’s nice to see him doing well,” Kershaw said. “Wish he hadn’t done as well tonight.”

Maybe a 1-1 tie when both starters exited the game was to be expected. But at some point doesn’t the Dodger lineup have to start mashing?
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Postgame: Braves 8, Dodgers 2

The Braves beat the Dodgers 8-2 today to win the series 3-1. For a full recap and boxscore click here.

THE BARE ESSENTIALS:

Not a good day for the Dodgers. Eric Stults kept the game close in a spot start, but the bullpen couldn’t keep the team in the game. Manny Ramirez went 3-for-4 but the team went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

Javier Vasquez was really dealing for the Braves. His stuff looked great throughout, and he shut the Dodgers down to the tune of eight innings of one-run baseball. The Blue had only two extra-base hits in the game, doubles by Manny Ramirez and Orlando Hudson.

Matt Diaz homered in the second, but the Braves didn’t really put together any significant on offense until the ninth, where five hits and a walk, capped by a two-run single by Martin Prado, made the score 8-1.

ETC…ETC:

The Dodgers put together a brief rally in the ninth but Mark Loretta, starting for James Loney at first, flew out to end the game.

Stults, recalled earlier today to replace Tony Abreu on the active roster, certainly did what we asked. He pitched five innings, giving up three runs while on just two days’ rest after a Triple-A start Thursday.

There’s definitely cause to be worried about Ramon Troncoso. Since pitching back-to-back-to-back games July 18-20, his ERA has been a not-so-hot 13.50 in six innings of work. He’s given up 15 hits and struck out just four in that time and was shelled in today’s ninth inning.

Don’t look now, but both the Giants and Rockies are tied for the NL Wild Card lead 61-50 and are just 5.5 games back of the Dodgers in the West. The Rockies are a simply incredible 43-22 since Jim Tracy took over as manager on May 29.

ON DECK:

Hiroki Kuroda (4-5, 4.44) and Jonathan Sanchez (5-9, 4.49 and of no-hitter fame) match up in the first game of a crucial three-game set in San Francisco. The Dodgers won’t have to face Matt Cain but Tim Lincecum is set to take the ball Wednesday.