Series preview: Padres at Dodgers

LOS ANGELES – The Dodgers could use some wins after a rough two-game series in Detroit and with the looming All-Star break lulling them into some bad habits lately. Carl Crawford is back, possibly tonight, but apparently with nowhere to play.

There are plenty of storylines, but the start of this four-game series with the San Diego Padres is really all about one thing: Clayton Kershaw’s scoreless streak. He is 23 innings short of Orel Hershier’s major league-record streak of 59 consecutive scoreless innings and he is facing a lineup that has been shut out 11 times already this season.

Kershaw hasn’t yielded a run since the third inning of his June 13 start against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Mixed in between, Kershaw threw one of the greatest no-hitters in baseball history and has struck out 45 batters while walking only five. So, yeah, he’s pitching pretty well lately.

“If you were to ask, ‘If you had one guy to start a game, who would it be?’ it would probably be him,” Padres manager Bud Black told reporters this week. “It’s just a dominating package of pitches.”

That, of course, begs the question of whether National League manager Mike Matheny will name Kershaw to start Tuesday’s All-Star game. But the Dodgers – who were outscored 18-6 in Detroit – would rather see the focus on tonight’s start.

They’ll be facing rookie Odrisamer Despaigne, who has started his career off on solid footing with three straight starts allowing no more than one run over at least six innings. Despaigne gave up just two hits to the San Francisco Giants last week.

After Kershaw’s start, the Dodgers will face plenty of uncertainty. On Friday, Dan Haren makes his final start before the break, and he has been uneven of late, having pitched to a 4.87 ERA and given up 16 home runs since the end of April. The last time he faced San Diego, he gave up two home runs to Seth Smith.

Then, on Saturday, the Dodgers have to pick a starter to fill in for Josh Beckett, who is on the disabled list with an impingement in his left hip. Manager Don Mattingly has said the choices are lefty Paul Maholm and Triple-A right-hander Red Patterson.

And Crawford’s return could create a bit of drama in the clubhouse, as Mattingly told reporters this week he is happy with his starting outfield of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig and doesn’t anticipate making any changes. The Dodgers are paying Crawford $20.25 million this season and they owe him another $62.25 million beyond this season, making him a rather expensive fourth outfielder.