The challenges faced by Dodgers manager Don Mattingly in July are similar to the ones faced by a schoolteacher in, say, June.
With the All-Star break looming, Mattingly said it's important to "keep playing baseball to the last out."
"It's like kids in school starting to think about spring break," he said. "I've got to keep them focused on class until spring break."
As Los Angeles begins its last series before the break, which begins Thursday against San Diego at Dodger Stadium, Mattingly will turn to his ace, Clayton Kershaw.
Kershaw is riding a spectacular streak of 36 consecutive shutout innings. He hasn't allowed a run since June 13.
"Anytime he takes the mound, he's capable of the run he's been on," catcher A.J. Ellis said.
"During this run, he's had an 'A' curveball and an 'A' slider this entire time. They're both electric strikeout pitches."
The Padres enjoyed some success against Kershaw last season. The star lefty was 1-3 in four starts against San Diego in 2013.
Still, Padres manager Bud Black knows that Kershaw is the premier pitcher in the Majors.
"If you were to ask, 'if you had one guy to start a game, who would it be?' It would probably be him," Black said of Kershaw. "It's just a dominating package of pitches."
Several right-handed hitters not in the Padres' lineup Wednesday against the Rockies were probably spending time in Denver breaking down video of Kershaw before Thursday game.
"The guys who aren't in there today, Carlos Quentin, Tommy Medica … guys who know they're going to be in there tomorrow, I'm sure they're thinking about Kershaw," Black said.
Opposing Kershaw will be San Diego rookie Odrisamer Despaigne, who has had an impressive stretch of his own.
Despaigne is the first player in franchise history to throw at least six innings and allow no more than one run in each of his first three career starts. He allowed one run on two hits over six innings against the Giants last week.
"This guy knows his game," Padres manager Bud Black said. "The last game [against the Giants], he was more aggressive with his fastball. Tonight, he wasn't pinpoint with it. But he worked his way out of jams. The Giants had some funky swings at times."
San Diego catcher Yasmani Grandal agreed with Black's assessment that Despaigne has room to grow.
"I think he was trying to be more perfect with his pitches," said Grandal. "As he goes along, he'll learn a little bit more how to use that fastball."
Padres: Go-Go Goebbert
Jake Goebbert made his Major League debut for the Padres on June 20 against the Dodgers and, entering Wednesday, has hit .348/.423/.425 in 23 at-bats since then. Among Major League rookies in that time, his batting average ranks third, his OBP ranks second and his slugging percentage ranks 12th (minimum 20 at-bats).
After his pinch-hit single in the eighth inning Tuesday, Goebbert is now 4-for-7 as a pinch-hitter this season. His four pinch-hits are tied with Don Reynolds in 1978 for the most pinch hits by a Padres player in his first 13 career games.
Goebbert has seen time in the outfield and at first base for the Padres. He's seeing more time at first base now that Yonder Alonso is on the disabled list.
Dodgers: Veteran Crawford likely on bench once he returns
Carl Crawford, who has been on the disabled list since May 27 with a sprained left ankle, isn't assured of a starting spot when he rejoins the club as early as Thursday.
Matt Kemp has filled in nicely in left field with Crawford out, and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly seems wary of upsetting team chemistry by reinserting Crawford as the starter in left.
"Everybody is happier," Mattingly said. "They don't have to come to the ballpark looking for the lineup card ... Carl happened to be the one who got hurt."
Crawford batted .267 with four home runs and 18 RBI in 44 games before he was hurt.
• The Dodgers lead the regular-season series, 4-2, over the Padres.
• With his All-Star nod , Padres pitcher Tyson Ross is the 16th different pitcher in Padres history to be selected to the National League All-Star team.
Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.