LOS ANGELES -- As the Los Angeles Dodgers dust themselves off and prepare for another playoff run, things are beginning to fall into place.
The National League West champions have won three of four after a prolonged 5-20 stretch had many wondering if they even would reach the postseason.
Clayton Kershaw is pitching like a three-time NL Cy Young winner again, and several hitters are showing signs of heating up.
What the Dodgers really need is right-hander Yu Darvish to continue demonstrating he is ready to carry the burden of being the No. 2 starter in the playoffs. He will make one of his final postseason preparations when he takes the mound against the visiting San Diego Padres on Monday, the start of the final week of the regular season.
"I think I'm in a pretty good place," Darvish told MLB.com after his most recent start. "I think I'm where I need to be at this time of the season."
Darvish (9-12, 3.96 ERA overall; 3-3, 3.80 ERA with Los Angeles) has not allowed an earned run in his past two starts.
He threw seven shutout innings and allowed three hits in a 4-1 win over the San Francisco Giants on Sept. 13. On Tuesday, he gave up only an unearned run in 5 1/3 innings during Los Angeles' 6-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, his eighth start with the Dodgers since he was acquired from the Texas Rangers on July 31.
The downside is the Giants, Phillies and Padres are non-playoff teams. The same is true of the New York Mets, whom Darvish faced in his Dodgers debut on Aug. 4, when he tossed seven shutout innings in a 6-0 victory.
Darvish went on the 10-day DL on Aug. 19 and missed a start, then was rocky in his next three outings. He appeared to pull out of the slide at San Francisco 13, then came back with the strong effort at Philadelphia.
The Padres will send left-hander Travis Wood (4-6, 6.55 ERA overall; 3-3, 6.23 ERA for San Diego) to the mound Monday in hopes he can pick up where he left off.
He allowed two runs and three hits in six innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks in a 6-2 victory on Tuesday. Both runs scored on solo homers by A.J. Pollock, the first on the fifth pitch of the game.
It was a much better performance than in Wood's previous two outings, when the lefty didn't get out of the third inning in either game while allowing five home runs in losses to the St. Louis Cardinals and Minnesota Twins.
"This was the first time in the last three starts I thought there was some life to the baseball," Padres manager Andy Green told the San Diego Union-Tribune after the game against Arizona. "Even when Pollock hit that (first-inning) ball, I was optimistic about how the day was going to go."
Wood was acquired from the Kansas City Royals in late July, and his Monday performance could carry over to the offseason, when the Padres will need to make a decision regarding the 30-year-old.
Wood has definitely proved himself as a threat at the plate. His 11 regular-season home runs rank third among active pitchers behind the Giants' Madison Bumgarner (17) and the Seattle Mariners' Yovani Gallardo (12).